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Amid Pandemic, Some Restaurants Are Moving Away From Tipping For Good

Amid Pandemic, Some Restaurants Are Moving Away From Tipping For Good
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TORONTO As the Canadian economy continues to adapt to the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, some restaurants in Toronto are saying goodbye to a service industry staple: tipping.

Three restaurants Richmond Station, Ten and Burdock Brewery have publicly signed onto doing away with the practice, with the aims of making the industry more equitable and providing service workers with access to the social safety nets afforded to other professions.

While some restaurants are implementing whats known as a hospitality included fee, Richmond Station has opted to include the price of service in its menu prices.

Another restaurant, Anthony Rose, has added a mandatory 15 per cent gratuity to all of its takeout orders as more people skip dining out in favour of eating at home or in outdoor spaces.

Unlike the practice of tip-pooling, which typically pays back-of-house staff such as cooks and dishwashers significantly less than front-of-house staff, a hospitality included fee is designed to be more evenly distributed.

A tip is left on a table on Nov. 13, 2012 in Montreal.

Ryan Donovan, co-owner of Richmond Station, said his team decided it was the right choice when they saw how badly service workers were hit by the pandemic.

The reality is that for a really significant portion of our staff, their earnings arent insured, Donovan said, noting that an employees tips do not contribute to either employment insurance or the Canada Pension Plan.

That social safety net is so important, and for people in this industry, its just not there for them.

In his view, tipping inequity is one of the major roadblocks that stands in the way of creating a more equitable restaurant industry.

But for 23-year-old server Hannah Kavoosi, who works in downtown Toronto,the idea of getting rid of tipping is not something shes ready to get on board with yet.

Kavoosi, who said she has previously worked at a restaurant without tipping, sees the practice as an effective tool in incentivizing engagement between customers and servers.

I think the quality of service you give is reflective of the tips you get, Kavoosi said.

When theres no difference in how much Im being paid with one customer to the next, it becomes a less personal experience.

Fernandes, who is Black,also noted that racism in server-customer interactions goes both ways.

There is a lot of racism in the service industry, Fernandes said, arguing that the potential of a tip is sometimes the only factor that dissuades servers from picking and choosing which guests to serve well.

A lot of servers unfortunately wont give certain people equal service if tipping is axed, she said.

James Rilett, vice-president of the industry group Restaurants Canada, said he believes ending tipping would not go over well with customers.

Rilett said conversations with restaurant owners and customers over the years have led him to believe that consumers tend to prefer tipping over price increases on menu items.

I think the biggest problem is sticker shock, he said. Just seeing the price of your burger go up 20 per cent people are going to react to that.

Rilett said in his experience, most restaurants abandon the (no-tipping)model within five to six months after implementing it.

Although aware of the arguments against the hospitality fee model, Donovan said the move is a sacrifice on the part of the employee and the business.

Some people like the tipping system because they get more take-home money, and thats OK.... Our goal is just to offer a stable alternative.
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