California's dining landscape is poised for another shake-up as a new law looms on the horizon. Adding to the recent strain of adjusting to a $20 minimum wage, eateries across the state face another challenge as they gear up for increased menu prices.

This double whammy comes as a result of a law signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, targeting what it terms as "junk fees," slated to take effect on July 1st. The legislation puts the brakes on restaurant surcharges and fees, effectively reshaping how businesses in the sector operate.

Traditionally, many restaurant owners have relied on these surcharges to extend benefits to their employees, such as healthcare coverage. Whether visibly noted on menus or quietly incorporated as optional add-ons, these fees have been a cornerstone of compensation strategies within the industry.

However, the impending law leaves little room for such practices, pushing restaurant proprietors to reassess their financial models.

The recent confirmation by California's attorney general to the San Francisco Chronicle reaffirms the legality of the impending ban on restaurant surcharges and fees. This revelation deals a significant blow to an industry already grappling with economic uncertainties.

Laurie Thomas, Director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, underscores the predicament faced by eateries, caught between the dilemma of reducing employee wages or passing on increased costs to consumers.

For many, this spells inevitable price hikes across menus statewide. The prospect of absorbing these additional expenses is grim, particularly for businesses already teetering on the brink of financial viability.

Marcia Gagliardi, a noted food writer, echoes these concerns, predicting a tangible impact on consumers' wallets. She anticipates price increases ranging from a modest 5% to a more substantial 15%, as restaurants navigate the fallout of the impending legislation.

While the road ahead appears fraught with challenges, there remains a glimmer of hope for potential amendments or revisions to the legislation. However, such optimism is tempered by the stark reality of an industry in flux, grappling with the enduring aftershocks of a tumultuous year.

As restaurant owners and patrons alike brace for the impending changes, the future of California's dining scene hangs in the balance, awaiting the resolution of a complex and multifaceted dilemma.

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