Imagine a world where servers were paid enough to take pride in their job without pandering for precious tip money to survive?
Imagine a society where employers were forced to uphold high standards and pay their employees a fair, livable wage regardless of input from the customer. We as customers would experience equal treatment despite our perceived appearances. Can you imagine a world where a tip actually means something?
That’s actually how much of the world already functions.
Servers and bartenders are hired based on merit and loyalty to their business and craft. They want to give you a good experience because they’re proud of their skill set.
In the US we can expect something much different. Despite a national minimum wage of $7.25/hr, restaurants and bars have guiled us into accepting a system where they’re allowed to pay workers a whopping $2.13/hr—a number that has not changed since 1991. Meanwhile, customers are expected to shell out the extra $5.12 to bring wages up to the minimum.
As many service employees already know, this system creates an extremely competitive and occasionally hostile environment at work. Thai Fresh owner, Jam Sanitchat, found the solution: stop tipping, start paying.
Soon after, she noticed a change in her then 7 year old restaurant’s culture, which she describes as “everyone taking care of everyone.”
After reading about a San Francisco restaurant that eliminated tipping, Jam deliberated on the idea for two years and decided to make the switch in January 2016. She increased prices 15-20% so that all staff members are now paid a higher hourly wage, removing customer obligation to tip. Soon after, she noticed a change in her then 7 year old restaurant’s culture, which she describes as “everyone taking care of everyone.” With this newfound consistency, business runs more smoothly and her staff no longer compete for sections, fight with the kitchen or experience slow days without tips.
Jam explains that she’s building a family at Thai Fresh—evidenced by her nearly 100% employee retention rate since the change. Starting at $14–15/hr with benefits, 50% paid health insurance and paid vacation, it’s not hard to see why they’re staying.
Let’s bring tipping back to it’s roots. Expect great service that justifies the price of your meal and feel free to leave a tip if your experience is truly phenomenal, as customers at Thai Fresh often do. Once restaurants and bars accept their duty as an employer, as Thai Fresh has done, we’ll finally be able to say goodbye to eater’s remorse and obligatory tipping.
Questions & Concerns
Q: “That’s great and all but won’t I get worse service?”
-Gus Tomer, Average Customer
A: No. Servers who are adequately compensated for their time will be happier in their reduced stress environment. Trust the restaurant to ensure great service for you—their reputation depends on it! Less staff turnover means you’ll see more of the same servers who will treat you like a good friend instead of a cash cow.
Q: “But I’ll make less money without tips, right?”
–Wade Terr, Server & Bartender
A: You’ll probably make more money! We have a bias for good memories so we remember the baller who drops $100 and forget the stiffs. But everything averages out to ~$10-$15 anyway. You won’t need to fight over sections or stay past your shift to collect the tip. You can rest easy knowing exactly how much you make.