BC restaurant bans tipping

A British Columbia restaurant says it will not be accepting tips from customers when it opens next month – a move that the owner believes will mark a Canadian first.

In fact, those who dine at the Smoke ‘N Water restaurant in Parksville, B.C., won’t even be given a tip line on their debit or credit receipts. If cash tips are received, they will be donated to charity.

“The bottom line is that the tipping policy is a broken business model,” said owner David Jones.

In the majority of North American restaurants, servers often make sub-par wages -- with the understanding that they’ll make up for it in gratuities. Instead, Jones says his restaurant staff will receive a “decent living wage” with access to benefits.

Front-of-house staff will make $10.50 an hour, while back-of-house will make $11 an hour. That’s not much over minimum wage, but Jones intends to increase the pay grade of his employees through a profit-sharing plan.

By giving a portion of the restaurant’s gross receipts back to its workers, staff will be making closer to $15 an hour across the board.

Jones is confident that the new system will have a positive impact on the business, and the quality of service as well.

“I believe that it’s something that will allow us to differentiate ourselves from the competition,” he said.

Not everyone agrees that Jones has the right idea.

Frank Bourree, CEO of Chemistry Consulting Group Inc. and a former restaurateur, thinks that the absence of tips will leave a void that no wage can fill.

“The wages to the staff are not going to go up if you take away tips like that,” he told CTV News.

In other restaurants with no-tipping policies, the value of the tip is often factored into the total bill, whether through a service charge or an increased meal price.

But Jones thinks patrons will be pleasantly surprised at the Smoke ‘N Water, saying his food prices will be similar to that of standard, tip-accepting restaurants.

And while tipping is not the norm in many countries outside of North America, Jones was surprised to discover that no other restaurants in Canada seem to have adopted such a policy.

“A chill went through my body. I thought ‘No, that’s too good to be true,’” he said, expressing excitement at the fact his restaurant will be the first.

For example, it’s not customary to leave a tip in Australia or New Zealand, where a service charge is usually factored into the total bill. And in Japan, tipping can be viewed as offensive.

Jones studied examples of a few successful restaurants in the United States that don’t accept tips, and still can’t believe it hasn’t been done in Canada until now.

He views the no-tipping policy as a potentially ground-breaking step for the restaurant industry.

“I’m inviting other owner-operators to get on board with this because it’s going to be successful,” he said.



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