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Central Texas Local News | kcentv.com

COVID-19 surcharge: Some barbecue restaurants faced with tough decision

Some businesses like Bill Miller Bar-B-Q are now adding a COVID-19 surcharge to help cover the costs of supplies and certain food.

AUSTIN, Texas — As soon as you get to Bill Miller Bar-B-Q, there's a sign on the drive-thru showing that they're going to charge you one dollar more for a quarter pound of brisket. It's a temporary change that some businesses are adding, while others are choosing not to. 

"I’m definitely a big barbecue fan. I come here to Branch Bar-B-Que several times a week. Been coming here for 20 years and it’s one of my favorite places to go eat," said Michael Ege, a Branch Bar-B-Que customer. "I definitely understand that prices are going up and I’m definitely glad here at Branch they haven’t raised their prices."

"With so many people being out of work, and I have been laid off from a part-time job I have," said Sue Cornelius, a Branch Bar-B-Que customer. "I am on a fixed income and it makes it a little more difficult to go out and get something, you know, out to eat."

Branch Bar-B-Que owner Chris Carby is holding onto regular prices, but understands other barbecue places don't have the same luxury. Especially after several meat processing plants shut down because of the pandemic.

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"It starts on the farm and ranches with the cattle. There’s not a cattle shortage. There’s a problem in the processing plants. For the processing plants, if they’re not processing as much meat, then there’s not as much on the market, then it becomes a supply and demand issue," said Carby. "I'm very hopeful that the processing plants will be back up to full capacity and the prices will come back down to normal and we'll keep right on going."

Pork ribs. Y'all come get some.

Big Vinny's BBQ owner Brian Miller is doing the same thing and keeping his prices the same at his location on South Congress and East Annie Street.

"I haven't bothered to increase my prices because I'm not the only one going through this hardship, this downfall right now," said Miller. "With all the meatpacking plants that have been shut down, it’s harder to come across product. There’s a lot of places that are limiting product right now. Whereas before, you can go to a distributor and request a couple cases."

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Miller said his distributors have raised their prices and it's been hard to find products, mainly brisket. 

Bill Miller's sign said the brisket temporary price increase is due to the current global brisket shortage. Officials with the restaurant said, "We apologize for any inconvenience. Please enjoy any of our alternative protein options."

It's not only Bill Miller Bar-B-Q adding the COVID-19 surcharge. There are reports of salons and other restaurants across the country adding an extra charge to pay for supplies. 

The Better Business Bureau said it's not uncommon, in some industries, to have additional fees, such as hazardous material disposal fees. They said businesses are navigating the new normal of customer interactions and it's always a good practice for businesses to disclose any surcharges to consumers upfront.

Brian Miller said he's lucky enough to stay open and plans to keep customers in mind. 

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