The courts in part of the country (9th Circuit covering California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Arizona) are supporting the US Department of Labor’s attack on restaurants who include kitchen workers in tipping pools. The rule is clear: participating members in a tipping pool must be exclusively front of house positions that are traditionally tipped: hostess, server, bartender, bus people and sometimes managers. However, not all parts of the country are applying the same rules (4th Circuit covering D.C., West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina).
Why would restaurants do this to begin with? The practice is aimed at raising the pay for back of house staff without raising the labor cost for the business owner. The “raise” is essentially shifted to customers to pay via tips. The problem is that it shorts servers who receive a lower hourly base rate and count on tips to bring their total compensation to a livable wage. Diluting tips to include back of house staff who have a higher base hourly rate is unfair.
Some restaurants have resorted to a separate line item on the bill for wage increase surcharges. While controversial, it makes a statement. Either menu prices can be increased or a surcharge can be assessed. Client Back Nine Grill has initiated this practice and received media attention for the Coumo surcharge (purposely misspelled).
How would you feel if there was a surcharge on your bill for wage increases?