Tipping is one of those topics that everyone has an opinion about — as Chron restaurant critic Michael Bauer has said on more than one occasion, all he needs to do to make sure his blog gets plenty of comments is to write a post about tipping. But Bauer might soon have to find another comment-troll topic, as five local restaurants are eradicating the practice of tipping. If it works for them, can other joints be far behind?
As the Chron reports, Berkeley "gathering place" Comal, Oakland restaurants Camino and Duende, and SF destinations Bar Agricole and Trou Normand say that in the next few weeks, they'll just start adding a 20% to every bill, regardless of party size.
This change is motivated at least in part by the Bay Area's planned increases in the minimum wage to as much as (if passed by voters) $15/hour in SF by 2018, a move that could increase the income inequality between the well-tipped front and un-tipped back of the house (as well as, warned one angry chef, make a $25 burger the SF norm).
As chef and restaurateur Traci Des Jardins said to Zagat in July:
Without a tip credit — some sort of recognition of income from gratuities calculated into an employee’s total compensation — des Jardins and others points out, the law simply “widens the gap between front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house income” without providing business owners a way to get more money to the people in the restaurant industry who really need it — the dishwashers, line cooks, prep cooks.
So, by making the "tip" instead a service fee that can be distributed between all staffers, that wage inequity decreases, owners of these five restaurants expect. Instead, the "restaurants will compensate staff on merit-based hourly wages and revenue-sharing," the Chron reports. How European!
According to Bay Area restauranteur Jay Porter, the vast majority of patrons prefer the tipless experience, writing that “one person in 1,000, or in 10,000" would be “angry about his lack of control over the price, angry about not being the final arbiter of our service.”
Restaurant workers reportedly also prefer this way of doing things, apparently willing to accept that now, all their income will be taxed (cash tips typically float beneath the IRS' radar), in exchange for the wage increases they expect under the new policy.
Allison Hopelain, co-owner of Camino, looks at it another way, telling the Chron that “Tipping affects (the relationship between waiter and diner) in a way that I don’t think is necessarily positive for either party."
“In this day and age, and in this area, it’s a little different, but I think there’s still that holdover of waiters being seen as servants. Now this can shift that a little bit.”