Retail Foodservice

Grocerants Could Benefit From Eliminating Tip Jars

The Lempert Report: Opting for a decent hourly wage for foodservice workers could lead to happier staff and customers

One of the reasons shoppers hate the checkout lane in the supermarket is that after picking the best produce, talking to the butcher or seafood monger and selecting just the right foods for dinner, and then passing by that scrumptious bakery, they have to stand in line and pay. We look at the groceries, then the screen that shows our total and—gulp. Not a great experience.

And the same thing happens when we go to a coffee shop or restaurant: We get the bill after a fabulous meal and then our anxiety builds as we try to figure out just what that right amount is to tip our server. In a tense few minutes we evaluate our entire experience and then our math brain kicks in—and we still wonder if it was the right amount. 

And then the reality kicks in. Most people don’t think about the fact that their tip is divided among a bunch of people and doesn’t only go to that waiter that you had a personal (and hopefully) pleasant experience with. Or that it’s a way for the restaurant to pay a small wage, currently $2.13 an hour in 43 states, out of their pocket and hope that the diners pick up enough of the difference to give their staff a livable wage. 

Danny Meyer announced in 2015 that he would eliminate tipping at many of his Union Square Hospitality Group restaurants and upped the hourly wage. After the changes, 40% of his longtime front-of-house staff quit. Menu prices were raised, and a lawsuit against Meyer and other restaurateurs alleges that after the switch to a gratuity-free model, money was not fairly distributed between the restaurants and front-of-house staff. Restaurants throughout Europe have always automatically included the tip as part of the bill.

The Trump administration has proposed legalizing tip pools again, which would effectively transfer the ownership of tips from servers to the employers, who could then distribute the money as they see fit—or just pocket tips for the restaurant. 

An Eater analysis of U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data showed that white servers and bartenders across all restaurant types make more in tips than most other racial groups. Between 2010 and 2016, the median estimated hourly tip for white servers and bartenders was $7.06; "Latinx" (who include people who identify as either black, white, Asian, or multiracial) earned $6.08 an hour in tips; black front-of-house workers made a median hourly tip of $5.57; and Asians earned a median hourly tip of $4.77. 

Just one of the reasons for the call for a $15 hour minimum wage.

Here’s an idea for grocerants—why not make your environment tip free and increase the hourly wage? Your customers will be happier, your workers will be happier, and you’ll attract the best in foodservice to your grocerant.


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