Philadelphia Restaurant Bans Tipping, Offers Benefits to Employees

Illustration for article titled Philadelphia Restaurant Bans Tipping, Offers Benefits to Employees

A soon-to-open Philadelphia brunchatorium has decided to eschew the system of tipped wages in favor of a livable hourly wage and a benefits package the likes of which I've never seen at any restaurant, ever.

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Girard Brasserie and Bruncherie co-owners Cristian Mora and Chef Brian Oliviera told ThinkProgress they were inspired by other restaurants recent efforts to pay higher wages and ban tips. They say they've worked in tipped positions and "didn't want to buy into" a system where employees could get completely screwed by a bad section or terrible tippers. They're offering $13/hour on average to employees, plus a fairly comprehensive benefits package including paid vacation days, paid sick days, and health care coverage for all employees, both full-time and part-time.

The advantage here isn't so much the hourly (which is still pretty decent, don't get me wrong), but the benefits package. Four paid vacation days for every six months worked, paid sick days, and health care benefits (all for both full AND part-time employees, no less!) may not seem that unusual to someone operating in another industry, but that's absolutely unheard of in the restaurant business. I tend to agree when Oliviera points out that this system will benefit the restaurant by resulting in "less turnover, more knowledgeable staff." They're also specifically looking to attract people who want to make a career in the restaurant industry (as opposed to the perception of those jobs as just being temporary), which is a smart move, because those employees tend to make the best servers, and there are plenty of them out there — especially in a major city like Philadelphia.

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It's honestly tough for me to say which I'd prefer, Packhouse Meats's system of being paid a percentage of sales, or Girard's benefits package. Probably still Packhouse's system, but one thing's for certain: both are a whole hell of a lot better than the current tipped wage system.

Image via CGissemann/Shutterstock. Please note this is a stock photo of a brunch and not a dish actually served at Girard's.

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DISCUSSION

We used to frequent a now-closed French restaurant in the DC area. The owner/chef and his wife were French, and once a year, they would close the restaurant, take a month off and go home to visit family. (The restaurant is closed because the owner/chef retired, not because of this policy. ;) )

During the entire time they were gone, they continued to pay their staff salary. Because they were aware that leaving for a month would be too hard on the staff's bottom line, especially the servers and busboys. And they knew that ultimately, it would be too expensive to retrain new servers if people had to quit because of that hiatus, and they valued the incredible staff they had. They knew fully well that the excellent service their staff provided was a large part of their success.

We never got the details - our longtime waiter explained the broad outline to us once - but obviously, it had to have been enough money to cover salary and tips for them to stay. It also meant the servers got a month off themselves, which they seemed to appreciate. I know that this place had the same waiters for as long as I could remember - these were professional servers, and all were most excellent at their job. I can only guess they were treated well year 'round (by the owners at least).

Not all restauranteurs suck. It's nice to see when they get it.