A restaurant in NYC has recently made news for doing something that most Americans and Canadians would find shocking.
Going against North American restaurant norms, Sushi Yasuda has banned tipping. The restaurant compensates by paying their staff higher wages and making the menu slightly more expensive, as is done in Japan. The owner says service has not declined, and clientele enjoy not having to factor in tips at the end of the meal.
This concept is right in tune with the Australian mentality. Tipping in Australia is definitely not banned, but it's not a normal practice. As a former Canadian server/bartender now working in Melbourne, I've been thinking a lot about the difference in our restaurant cultures.
For a couple weeks, I have been working at a trendy café on a busy main street, as well as a high-end steakhouse in a ritzy neighbourhood. I've come to realize how NOT working for tips (but still getting them as a bonus from time to time) can be a huge benefit. Here's why:
1. Higher wage that makes staff feel their work is appreciated. In Ontario, minimum wage for servers/bartenders is $8.90. If it's a slow day (meaning less customers/ less tips), it doesn't feel worth it to be at work. In Australia, I make $15/hour at one job, and $21.50/hour at the other. Cost of living is higher, but it's still pretty good.
2. Side duties are bearable. Polishing and rolling cutlery, changing garbage, putting away glasses -- whatever it is, I resent doing it in Canada for less than minimum wage! In Australia, I'll gladly stick around and polish.
3. I have never, in eight years of serving, had a break on a shift. I'd work ten hours, running up and down stairs, without sitting down once. Here, you're entitled to have a break (times vary on length of shift etc.) Even if it's just 5 minutes with a coffee, snack, and time to check your phone -- it's awesome.
4. Coworker animosity and competition has been a factor in every single establishment I've ever worked in in Canada. It's simple: if you're good, and your boss likes you, you get a busy section with high turnover. It can be the difference of a $60 or a $250 night. Even if the tables do tip, in both my Oz workplaces, everything is split.
5. Front of House vs. Back of House. The kitchen staff slug away for long hours in a boiling hot kitchen, and watch waitstaff leave with a wad of cash every night. Taking away the tip culture, there's no resentment because everyone's wages are much more equal.
6. At the end of the day, my wage doesn't depend on whether or not someone is a generous tipper. Sure, if my service is exceptional, I still do make tips. And, if something goes wrong for whatever reason, it doesn't mean that I have to suffer financially.
7. It goes both ways: when I'm out, I don't have to tip unless I want to!
8. Getting tips feels good. I know that people don't have to, so when they do, I know it's because they think I'm doing a good job.