JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (WCBD) – As the restaurant industry continues to face labor shortages and increased prices of goods, one Johns Island restaurant owner is taking a unique approach to tackle issues.

Customers at the Southern General must now pay a 20% industry charge on all purchases. Owner Timothy Erwin said he implemented this charge to help increase pay employees, specifically kitchen staff.

 “The industry in the past few years has been faced with some growing challenges. The main one, of course, there’s been a mass exodus from the industry, mainly in the back of the house,” said Erwin.

According to Erwin, the new charge allows him to pay back-of-house staff between $18-$20 an hour. He hopes this will not only attract kitchen employees but also retain them.

“We basically put everybody in the restaurant at a flat rate and we take that 20% industry charge, and we divide it up amongst the hours worked for the employees and that gives them an increased rate of pay.”

Since rolling this out a few weeks ago, Erwin said the biggest question from customers has been if the charge counts as a gratuity. The owner said it is not a tip.

Erwin explained he is aware this method will likely reduce tips. Because of this, the Southern General servers now make about $8 an hour, compared to the usual $2.13.

While some customers expressed their concerns about the charge on social media, others like Marilyn Fleck, said they were willing to spend more money if it meant helping a local business.

“I am because I love the Southern General, and if they need help, I wouldn’t want to do it forever, but for a while until they get help, yes.”

Although Erwin calls the industry charge an experiment, he said he is committed to it and is hopeful it will bring good results.