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Restaurant chain starts charging carbon fee to customers

A Toronto-area restaurant chain has taken it upon itself to begin charging all customers a carbon fee on each and every bill.

Goodfellas Wood Oven Pizza has seven locations across the Greater Toronto Area, and it’s now adding a 2 per cent carbon fee onto all orders.

At the bottom of its receipts, the chain shares the reasoning for the charge, saying in part, “What we eat fuels climate change. Adding 2% to every restaurant bill to invest in carbon capture will help offset our carbon footprint.”

The fee was flagged by Joseph Cristiano, an employee of Bell Media, while he was out to celebrate a friend’s birthday at Goodfellas Wood Oven Pizza in Toronto’s west end.

“We had a wonderful meal, drinks were flowing and it was a great time,” recalled Cristiano. He said it wasn’t until he was leaving the restaurant that he took a closer look at the bill.

“I said, ‘Oh look at this, what is this fee?’”

For Cristiano’s bill, the new charge came in at $3 and change. He said that it’s the first time he can ever remember seeing such a charge on a restaurant bill he’s received anywhere in Canada.

CTV News reached out to Goodfellas, but the company didn’t respond.

Its website sheds more light on the reasoning, saying that, with many of its products coming from Italy, it’s chosen to offset its carbon footprint by “supporting Tree Canada’s National Greening program, which plants trees in areas that need reforestation.”

Cristiano said as long as the money is going where it’s intended, then he’s OK with the nominal charge, but as a customer, he’d like more assurances.

“If you’re going to charge and you’re going to say, ‘This is what I’m putting it towards,’ then I’d like to know that it’s going where it’s (supposed to be) going,” Cristiano said.

According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, as long as the restaurant doesn’t call its carbon fee a tax, what it’s doing is completely legal.

“This is a business choice to put line items on a receipt. The business has been totally above board,” the CFIB’s Julie Kwiecinski told CTV News.

Kwiecinski said she believes there’s a bigger issue for customers and business owners to focus on.

According to the CFIB, “businesses across Canada are owed $2.5 billion in past due carbon tax revenues. People have been getting their cheques (but) businesses haven’t.

“If the federal government doesn’t fix the broken carbon tax rebate system, then it’s just a giant ripoff,” Kwiecinski said.

Cristiano is clear: he said he wants people to know he’s not complaining about the restaurant or the carbon fee.

He’s received plenty of backlash to his story on social media, with some saying he should have tipped less in response to the surprise carbon fee. But he’s quick to point out that it isn’t the server charging the carbon fee, so offsetting the extra charge with a tip would be unfair.

As for whether a carbon fee would stop him from going back to Goodfellas or any other restaurant, Cristiano said, “probably not. I think I can live with 2%.”

But, he said, “if a restaurant starts putting 10% or more on their end, then I’d be like, ‘Alright I can cook at home.’”

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