Portland restaurant traded tips for 22% service charge
- The owners of a restaurant in Portland have exchanged tips for a 22% service charge on all checks.
- They also increased the lowest salary to $25 and offered health insurance to all employees.
- Co-owner Bonnie Morales said the new policy is fairer for kitchen and dining room workers.
The owners of a nationally acclaimed Russian fine-dining restaurant in Portland, Oregon, have ended optional tipping on their customers’ checks in favor of a 22% service charge on all orders.
In a statement on its website explaining the policy, Kachka states that “tipping, in its most innocent form, creates inequity between ‘front and back’ workers, and in its most sinister form, continues a tradition of racism.”
The new policy began last week after several months of planning, co-owner and head chef Bonnie Morales told Insider.
The move mitigates the usually variable revenue from traditional tips and helps provide a $25 minimum wage and health insurance for all employees.
“With inflation with staff shortages, with more challenges with guests,” she said. “It started becoming less and less of a ‘would be nice to have’ and kind of turned into a ‘we must have’.”
While critics have said they’d like to reserve the right to tip less than 22% to express their dissatisfaction with poor service, Morales told Insider that these diners aren’t really Kachka’s typical clientele.
“Our customers are leaving on average 22%, that’s how we arrived at that figure, so in effect your bill will be exactly the same as before,” she said.
Other critics of the mandatory service charge have also said restaurants should raise the prices of certain menu items instead, but Morales says diners in the US find it hard to stomach those increases, even when the final bill comes out. even at the end.
In other words, years of culinary tradition have psychologically conditioned most people to have a particular attachment to paying separately for service.
If anyone is bypassed in this arrangement, it’s the front desk staff, who can sometimes earn more than some restaurant owners or chefs. Meanwhile, the big winners here are the backroom staff, who typically receive little or no extra income from tips.
Morales said Kachka servers have had several months to review the situation and look for better paying positions elsewhere, but so far no one has quit.
“Not a single person said I deserved to earn more than the people in the kitchen or that my job was harder. Everyone recognizes the inequity, and that’s something that’s sort of a truth. unspoken from the industry,” she said.
Although the actual policy has only been in place for a week, Morales is optimistic, having made parallel payrolls since September to model the effects on Kachka’s finances.
“The only thing that wasn’t involved in these calculations is Omicron,” she said of the coronavirus variant, which is once again disrupting businesses in the United States and around the world.