At worst, restaurateurs say the recent minimum wage hike, minus a tip credit, will be their demise. At best, they say it's going to hurt.
The issue continues to be a touchy one in the legislature, because organized labor is keeping a watchful eye on any sleights of hand when it comes to touching the wage increase. The Minnesota Restaurant Association is backing restaurant owners on this one, but Governor Dayton says he's not budging, at least not for now, in spite of input from his Bachelor Farmer-owning sons.
So what does that mean for restaurateurs? They may have to start getting creative.
With or without the minimum wage hike, the arguably archaic practice of tipping has been coming under question all over popular culture, from web parodies to regular old dining public who are tired of the tip jar:
It may be time to do as the Europeans do and leave the living wage responsibility to the employers instead of the public. Some American restaurants are beginning to do just that.
The equation seems relatively simple: Abolish tipping and then raise dining prices so that owners can pay servers more on the dollar. Fewer people may dine out, but the more expensive costs should make up the difference, and with diners not having to reach into their pockets for that added 20 percent, line-item menu increases should not produce all that much sticker shock.
Some believe that abolishing tipping will have an impact on service, but studies show that gratuity has little or no effect on how good your service will be, and that most people will tip 15 to 20 percent across the board no matter what, due to the societal expectation to do so.
As a longtime back-of-house employee, I can't say I've ever been able to cry a river for the servers making less money than they make in the current tipping economy. The front of house regularly takes home two to three times the amount of money an average cook does, for an arguably less intensive skill set.
Servers insist that they rely on the windfalls to balance out the dead nights, but an hourly living wage would take care of all that. It may have the added benefit of upping service standards, because if service staff got into the business for the love of the industry rather than for the love of a pocket full of cash, diners (and cooks, who can have adversarial attitudes toward servers for the pay discrepancy) win.
Even some servers say that gratuities, on top of minimum wages that are already as high as $15 in some places, would be overkill:
Change. It's inevitable. So what should restaurateurs do to keep up with the changing tide?
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