Friday, April 1, 2016

An Alternative To Tipping

Numerous restaurants, including several in Boston, have decided to eliminate tipping, partially as a means to pay all of their employees better, especially those back of the house employees, the cooks, dishwashers, and others who normally do not benefit from tips. The problem then facing those restaurants is how to generate sufficient income, without tips, to properly compensate their employees. Some restaurants add a service fee, such as 20%, to their customers' bill while other restaurants raise the prices of their food and drink.

A local chain of seafood restaurants (though they don't like to be called a chain) will soon be eliminating tipping at all of their locations, instituting a more unique way to increase their income so they can properly compensate all of their employees. It is their hope that their new policy will also help educate consumers as to all of the hard work that goes into a restaurant, including many elements that most diners never think about.

This new policy is being tentatively called "A La Carte," a phrase that many diners may already know. However, this restaurant chain is expanding that concept far beyond the usual practice. Diners will now individually pay for all aspects of their dinner, from their silverware to their service. You will only pay for what you use, but individual prices will better indicate the effort that goes into providing you your meal.

For example, you will be charged a fee to make a reservation. You will also have to pay an hourly fee for use of the table. If you linger far too long at a table, the restaurant loses money so the hourly fee is justified. At your table, you have a couple options for utensils and plates. It will be a cheaper fee for plastic silverware and paper plates rather than actual plates and silverware. Paper & plastic can be discarded, without the need to wash them, incurring water costs, dishwasher labor costs, etc. Condiments, such as salt & pepper, ketchup, mustard, and such, will also cost a small fee.

You will also pay a server fee for each time the server must stop by your table. Some diners are more demanding of their server, having that server go back and forth multiple times from their table. That will now cost those diners more to do so. And special orders, such as substitutions, will also incur a fee. Catering to food allergies, real or alleged, will also incur a special fee.

All food will be charged a la carte, and individual items may also incur an extra fee for longer cooking times. For example, if you order a steak well done, which takes longer to prepare, you will have to pay more than if it were ordered medium rare.

The beverage program will also see some necessary changes. For example, you will pay an extra fee for the type of glassware you select for your wine. Paper cups will be the least expensive and Riedels will be more expensive. You will also be charged if you need a decanter.

I asked a few local food & restaurant personalities for comments on this chain's elimination of tipping and their new fee policy:

Mucus Howitzer of Boston's Favorite Chain Restaurants: "I like the fact none of these new fees are hidden. Hidden is bad, very bad. I do love paper plates and cups and think it's great I can pay less for the pleasure of using them. I will be writing about this in the near future, an article titled My Top Ten Favorite Restaurant Fees."

Pattycake Magoo of I'm Your Slave Not Your Server: "I'm glad to see more restaurants trying to better compensate all their employees. If cooks are paid a better wage, then they will no longer spit and urinate in your food out of anger and frustration. And servers who get paid a better wage, and who are no longer reliant on tips, can buy better quality drugs and be much happier people."

Mr. Hanky Aaron Levee of Insuring A Full Belly: "A brilliant financial move though I would never eat there as I hate seafood. The employees though need a better financial future so I hope this new policy helps them. And then I can show them how to handle all their new money so they can afford to eat well for the rest of their lives."

Willright Fourfoud of The Foodie's Foodie Food Blog: "I am all for this new policy to help all those poor restaurant employees. I don't mind that restaurant prices will be increased for all those a la carte items. As I never have to pay at any restaurant, this new policy won't hurt my wallet in the least.  Sucks to be you."

Drool Starkist of Bagels, Bagels, Lox & Spam: "Why the hell does anyone care about this crummy chain? I hope this policy fails, they go out of business, their restaurants are razed, and the lots become food truck plazas."

As you can see, 4 out of 5 of these people were supportive of the new policy. In an informal poll on Twitter and Facebook, 85.27% of the respondents were also supportive.

What are your thoughts?

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