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Massachusetts Restaurant Gets Rid of Tipping to Help Eliminate 'Racial Divide' in Paychecks

Haymarket Cafe plans to raise the starting wages of all employees to $17 per hour by 2018.

Haymarket Cafe

A cafe in Northampton, Mass. is the latest restaurant to eliminate tipping. According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Haymarket Cafe — which also features a juice bar and a bakery — will no longer accept tips starting November 22. Owner Peter Simpson tells the paper: "There will be no tipping — no tip jar upstairs, and on credit card receipts there will be a note explaining that the tip is included in the price." Instead, Simpson plans to raise the starting wages for all of his employees to $14 per hour. The base wage will increase $1 per year for the next three years, until employees are paid $17 per hour in 2018. To help cover the salary increase, the restaurant owner will raise prices between 10 and 20 percent.

Simpson says Haymarket Cafe is likely the first restaurant in the state of Massachusetts to discontinue tipping. He adds that he was inspired by the Fight for $15 movement, in which fast food workers have been protesting across the country and around the world for a livable wage. Simpson adds that he also wants to eliminate the large pay gap between the earnings of front- and back-of-house employees. "Cooks in Northampton and elsewhere are often Latino, while servers are often white, creating a racial divide in pay," continues Simpson, something he is not comfortable with. The Sophian notes that Simposon is hoping to start a movement across the city.

Not everyone is necessarily on board with Simpson's plan: Server Aubrey Clark tells the paper that she currently makes around $20 per hour on average, so the new plan would result in her "definitely taking a pay cut." While she understands the decision morally, Clark notes that she will only know how she truly feels about the change "once the financial reality takes hold." Eater has reached out to Simpson for comment about the decision.

Clark isn't the only server who prefers a system which includes tips. Two restaurants in San Francisco — Bar Agricole and Trou Normand — which both went tip-free 10 months ago are bringing tipping back. Owner Thad Volger explains: "We haven’t been able to keep servers. We were hoping more restaurants would switch, but for now, it’s been impossible to compete with more traditional places in keeping front-of-house staff who prefer the control and upside of the tip system."

The move comes around the same time as the game changing decision by New York City restaurateur Danny Meyer, who revealed yesterday that he is eliminating tips from all of his restaurants. Meyer is getting rid of the current standard gratuity system for many reasons, including the pay disparity between cooks — who struggle to make around $35,000 — and servers who can make anywhere between $40,000 and $100,000 at top restaurants. While Simpson notes that he has been working on the plan for months, and likely had not heard of Meyer's plans, there are many similarities in their approaches. Meyer plans to increase the hourly wages of employees and raise menu prices as well. However, Meyer will fortify employees' base incomes with a revenue share, too.

Neither Simpson nor Meyer are the first restaurateurs to eliminate tipping. The team behind Bar Marco in Pittsburgh not only got rid of tipping completely, but they also put the restaurant's employees on yearly salaries of at least $35,000. While critics have their doubts about the elimination of tips, the Bar Marco team says that they have seen much success with their new system and profits have nearly tripled.


Eater Video: The right to a fair wage means tipping needs to go

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