SAN FRANCISCO – In some restaurants in San Francisco, you won’t be allowed to tip. Instead, restaurants raised prices or added a flat surcharge to a final bill.
The change aims to raise salaries for the lower-paid kitchen staff who are integral to the dining experience. It also aims to make compensation fairer for restaurant staff and eliminate the financial uncertainty shared by customers about how much to donate and servers about how much they expect to earn from a table. given.
For some restaurants, switching payment models away from tipping has been more complicated than expected.
Zuni Café in San Francisco stopped tipping in May 2021, when it reopened after COVID shutdowns. Instead of including a tip with your meal, you’ll pay a 20% fair wage charge and a 5% San Francisco health mandate fee with your bill. This additional 20% charge affects the pay of everyone involved in your dining experience, not just the server.
Zuni executive chef Nate Norris said that with the current payment model, kitchen staff members, who make up nearly half of the restaurant’s 75-person team, bring in significantly more money than ‘previously. The model also includes benefits like health insurance and paid time off, another perk traditional restaurants don’t offer to all staff.
However, Norris has heard from Zuni servers who are unhappy with the new model and would rather go back to collecting tips. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if some considered quitting, although he hopes the restaurant can reach a compromise that satisfies them.
“We see it as change that we are committed to bringing where there is a specific goal of change,” Norris said, noting that the goal is to empower workers through fair and just wages.
“Maybe parts of the structure, or specific numbers or percentages need to be adjusted, so that we end up in a place that everyone is happy with and that works for the business,” Norris added.
At Zazie, a French bistro in San Francisco that eliminated tipping seven years ago, the payment model is different and servers like Tessa Carter, who has worked there for three years, love it.
Carter earns more than $80,000 a year and enjoys a benefits package that includes health insurance, 401k, and paid time off.
“What comes down to saying is that they care about us as employees,” Carter said.
Zazie’s recipe for determining worker wages is unique and always tied to the quality of service, similar to tipping, according to Jennifer Bennett, the restaurant’s co-owner.
To achieve this, Bennett increased menu prices by 20% and allocates 12% of individual sales to each server. The back of house also receives 12% of the sales, split among them all, based on their individual responsibilities, Bennett said.
“It’s the right thing to do, I personally think so, and I hope to see more restaurants doing it,” said Sarah Anderson, a first customer at Zazie.
Bennett hopes so too. Last month, Lovina, a restaurant in Calistoga she also owns, ditched tipping and followed the model Bennett started at Zazie.
Bennett added that she’s willing to provide free consultations on how it works, and places like Zuni could benefit from that kind of advice.