This past Monday April 29th UGSRP held its ‘Tipped Out?’ forum at George Brown College in Toronto. Speakers at the event included academics, restaurateurs and a member of provincial parliament. The audience of industry members and students was treated to a two-hour passionate discussion about this very controversial subject. Here are some of the highlights.
Beaches-East York MPP, Michael Prue started off the day by discussing his newly proposed Bill 49. As quoted by Prue during the forum, the bill mentions, “No employer may take any portion of an employee’s tips or gratuities.” Prue stated the goal of his bill is to “help the servers of today”. Prue acknowledged that this bill would not end tip sharing, but rather make tipping practices more fair in the restaurant industry. Prue wrapped up his presentation by emphasizing how firmly he believes that the practice of employees having to give a portion of their tips to the owners is ‘wage theft.’
Professor Mike von Massow from the University of Guelph’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management spoke next about his experience, thoughts, and research on the topic of tipping. He started off his talk by stating that in Ontario most servers make an average of $20 per hour after ‘tipping out’ at the end of a shift. He expanded on this by saying “severs are not making minimum wage” and that the amount they make has actually hurt kitchen workers ability to earn a decent wage. Von Massow went on to discuss his research study conducted by himself and Professor Bruce McAdams, also of the University of Guelph. Their findings show that 85% of severs believe ‘tipping out’ to be a fair practice. Additionally, the data found that 75% of servers that were asked said that their employer had some type of system for tip sharing. Von Massow shared that servers consistently stated that people in the back of house are under valued for their work. He ended his discussion by stating, “we are finding ways to deal with an imperfect situation.”
Chris Klugman is the proprietor of Paintbox Bistro, a social enterprise in Toronto’s Regent Park. Klugman started off his talk by asking the audience to think about the following, “What does the restaurant of the future look like?” The pursuit of this question is what motivated Klugman to open up Paintbox Bistro. At his restaurant Klugman employs a system of tip pooling that sees gratuities distributed equally amongst all front and back of house staff. Klugman shared with the audience that he provides wage incentives for his employees for each semester of culinary school they complete.
Another unique perspective on tipping was presented by Jay Porter, owner of The Linkery restaurant in San Diego. Porter explained to the audience that at The Linkery they add an 18% service charge on the total of the bill. Any additional money left on the table, or ‘tips’ are taken and donated to a local charity within the community. Since moving to to this model 6 years ago the restaurant has experienced a variety of customer reaction. Porter stated that a good amount of people have embraced the flat service charge. It seems they welcome the idea of not having to face the social stigma of tipping, or even just doing the math. There has also been reaction at the opposite end of the spectrum. Some people, almost always male, are offended by the idea of paying the flat fee and often comment that they always tip higher than the allotted 18%.
Porter also had shared his severs reaction to the fixed service charge and the impact on their wage. He said “most servers like it because they are sharing with the kitchen, and it makes everyone more money because food quality is better.” Porter left the audience with a common question he always finds himself asking, “what type of experience do I sell?”
Lastly, Yasser Qahawish of Guelph, Ontario’s Artisanale spoke passionately about his thoughts on tip sharing. He started off by stating that tips are split in the following way at Artisanale, 60% goes to the front of house, 30% goes to the kitchen, and the last 10% goes into a fund which is strictly for career development, emergencies, and other unforeseeable costs. Qahawish shared, “service is not the only element of a dining experience, and there are other contributions.” He added, “I want the service to be as good as the food.” Qahawish lastly mentioned that if the standards are higher, we should be able to charge more for service.
To end off the forum, Bruce McAdams the moderator of the forum posed a question to Qahawish, Klugman and Porter. McAdams asked “In a perfect world would any of you move towards a system where there is no tipping?” Qahawish said, “Yes, better wages are better for everyone.” Klugman shared “Yes, I would have liked to have had that when I was a chef because at the time it was very unfair.” Porter added, “Yes, a higher minimum wage is needed to make an acceptable standard for all.”
Stay tuned for the video coverage of the event, which will be posted on our blog shortly.
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