Internet divided over restaurant’s “tip-free model”: “I would hate this”

A Toronto-based restaurant has divided online opinion after announcing its new “tip-free model.”

A photo of the announcement, originally from Reddit, was posted to “Restaurant Worker News”—a Facebook page dedicated to sharing restaurant industry news “from a worker’s perspective.” It has amassed more than 81,000 likes and over 6,000 comments from people who can’t decide if the model is helpful or harmful to the restaurant’s employees.

In its announcement, the restaurant, Barque Smokehouse, said it was “proud” to introduce the model.

“We believe all restaurant employees should be able to afford [to live] in the city where they work,” Barque said.

A Toronto-based restaurant has divided online opinion after announcing its new “tip-free” model.

“The starting wage at Barque, $22.25, is above the Toronto rate calculated by the Ontario Wage Network. Our cost of fairly compensating staff (including paid sick days, personal days, and health benefits) will be fully factored into our menu prices. Any gratuity is appreciated but completely unnecessary,” Barque continued.

In a statement to Newsweek, a spokesperson for Barque clarified that most of the restaurant’s employees earn more than the $22.25 starting wage.

On its website, Toast—a restaurant point of sale system—explained that a tip-free system is a “system where servers do not accept tips and are instead paid an hourly wage, often plus benefits.” According to Toast, this system provides servers with a more “stable” income.

However, restauranteur Danny Meyer told Forbes that it takes “about a year” for a restaurant to get the “math right” when switching over to a tip-free system.

“The switch from the standard tipping model to a no-gratuity model requires a lot of calculations; if you plan to do it, you’ll need to leverage as much sales data as you can to inform how you’ll shuffle around money,” Toast said. “Typically, restaurants increase menu prices to be able to cover minimum wage (or higher) for all workers. This is a risk, because loyal customers may experience some sticker shock.”

Though the system is meant to help servers earn a stable, livable income, some of those commenting on Barque’s announcement called the switch a “terrible idea,” claiming the model will actually cause servers to lose money.

“I make more than this as a server with tips,” claimed Ryan W, regarding Barque’s starting wage. “Terrible idea.”

“As a former waiter, I would hate this,” commented Eric Petterson. “Even back in the late ’80s/early ’90s, I made more than this due to the tips. The good money is the only reason one would stay waiting tables.”

I’ve worked in restaurants where I could make over $100 an hour. I would not be in hospitality if I had a set wage. The whole fun of it is going in and hustling and being able to make my own money,” said Shelby Luby.

Others, meanwhile, praised Barque for implementing the system.

“Yes, many wait-staff make more than $22.25/hour with tips, but…the monetary value of the additional benefits may outweigh the value of tips, and if not it at least reduces the stress of earning a consistent income and being unable to take time off when needed,” said Satinka Schilling. “I think this is a fantastic precedent and, as a former server, I would love to work in this type of environment!”

“Glad to see this is happening in Canada. That’s the way it works here in Australia. It makes so much sense. No one’s ability to pay their rent should depend on someone else’s charity when they are working full-time hours,” said Cheryl Harrison.

Brian Boggs added: “THIS is the way restaurants should be. It’s this way in Europe. The price you see is what you pay. No guessing about tips, etc. Yes, Yes, and Yes.”

Speaking to Newsweek, the spokesperson for Barque said: “If Barque can’t properly compensate all of its workers, we don’t want to continue the business.

“Many people still believe common myths about tipping—such as that tipping is the only way to incentivize restaurant servers, or that tips are an acronym for ‘To Insure Proper Service.’ Neither is true,” the spokesperson continued. “Tipped workers are subject to discrimination based on race, gender and beauty standards. In addition, the practice suppresses wages for non-tipped workers. What matters, and what is different in a gratuity-free model, is that we are able to manage how we pay staff.

The spokesperson added that because Barque does not expect diners to “subsidize the remainder of their [servers’] earnings,” their front-of-house workers “do not have to accept abuse from that very vocal minority of customers who feel it is their right to make others feel uncomfortable.”

Restaurant Worker News’s post isn’t the first social media post to spark a discussion about tipping.

One TikToker sparked a viral debate over tipping etiquette after sharing a story of the time she shamed a customer into giving her a better tip. Another server ignited a conflict after ranting about a bad tipper in a video with over 30 million views. And in May, a drive-thru customer prompted a discussion about tipping after stating in a now-viral video that “tipping culture” has gotten “out of control.”

06/07/22, 5:09 p.m. ET: This article has been updated to include comments from Barque Smokehouse.

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