Listen up all of you people who don’t mind recycling or rescuing, we’ve got a situation we need to discuss. A SideDish reader brings up the “green tax” charged for take-out containers at Velvet Taco.
I had lunch at Velvet Taco for the first time today. When we ordered, we noticed on the menu that there was listed a “10% Green Tax” on takeout orders. I snickered at the brazen attempt to make additional money off of imaginary concern for the environment, never having seen such a fee before. (Perhaps it’s common and I’ve just never seen it at another establishment?) But thinking about it today and beyond the mere ridiculousness of a fast-casual dining spot charging more for those taking their food elsewhere, I can’t help but wonder if Velvet Tacos is violating any law. I haven’t researched the issue, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it were illegal for a business to call a “tax” (implying mandated by the government) any privately-imposed and discretionary fee. It certainly seems to rise to some level of deceptive trade practice to call this sort of greedy and unnecessary fee a “tax,” as it seems like a term which could very easily confuse even intelligent diners about who was mandating the charge.
Before I hand this issue over to John Franke of Velvet Taco, let me put in my Nichols’ worth. I don’t find the practice of charging for container ridiculous. Especially when said containers are made from more expensive ‘green and compostable wares that, according to one industry person I asked, can cost up to $3.00 an order. (Another in the fast food expert said: “to-go containers are direct expense of about 4% of [our] sales (in a $400 million company, that’s an eye-opening $16 million non-recovered expense) that was spent directly on to go supplies.”
On the other side, people who take food away from a restaurant don’t require the labor of a server or busser or any of the other costs a place incurs when a customer dines in (big flush, little flush!). Also, the charge at Velvet Taco is not a state-sanctioned “tax,” it’s a term they chose to use in place of “upcharge” and the 10% is based on the pre-sales tax amount.
Below, John Franke, the head of operations at Velvet Taco replies to the reader’s question.
Jump free of charge!
From John Franke:
At Velvet Taco, we strive to make the best tasting tacos in the city using the freshest, locally sourced products we can find. Using quality local ingredients is important to us, but so is giving our guests that quality at a reasonable cost to them.
In addition to the incredible ingredients and flavors, we have made a commitment to our community and the environment to be as conscience as we can on what we serve our products in and what goes in the garbage can.
Examples of that are our recycling program, our composter to supply surrounding neighbors with soil, our corn cups, corn sporks and corn spifes, our recycled wrapping for the tacos, our to go boxes, our coffee cups, our elote cups, and our to go bags.
What we came to a debate over is, would our guests join us in our environmental saving spirit and appreciate the value of the packaging and be willing to pay a small price for it? The overwhelming response has been, absolutely they are and we continue to receive resounding positive feedback on our efforts to stand up for doing our part to help the environment and asking our guests to join in the fight.
We feel it is just a small price to help the cause, we make no increased sales from the 10 percent tax, and in the spirit of keeping it simple at Velvet Taco, the blanket green tax was the clearest way we felt would work for the taco loyalists out there that visit us everyday.
I hope this helps answer your reader’s question and I welcome your personal feedback. We can only get better each day from listening to and responding to our guest’s thoughts and feedback.
Let’s give it to him.