A Vermont restaurant is diving into the tipping debate with the addition of a 2 percent service charge that will go directly to back-of-house employees, WPTZ reports. Waterworks Food and Drink started tacking the additional charge onto customers' checks to work around the hurdle of a federal law that prohibits tip pooling with front-of-house and kitchen workers.
The restaurant's owner and manager, David Abdoo, said he didn't want to raise menu prices and lose a share of the competitive market, but wanted to be sure that his kitchen staff was getting a fair shake. Menus at Waterworks now reflect an explanation of the 2 percent service charge, and employees told the station they supported the change.
This appears to be a middle ground in the industry as some restaurant owners and hospitality groups take a stand against unequal wages by eliminating tipping. NYC-based restaurateur Danny Meyer started booting the practice from his restaurants, raising the price of menu items instead of adding service charges, much as this Vermont restaurant did. Similarly, in 2014, a restaurateur and chef in Los Angeles took matters into his own hands with two tip lines on each receipt, one for the kitchen and one for the front of house staff.
Meanwhile, some restaurant proprietors in Ohio continue to stand by the practice of tipping, but took a social media stand to call out bad tippers. The debate over industry norms rages on, however, as some studies suggest that eliminating tipping could hurt servers.