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December 8, 2004 2:34 PM quote 
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 Fair / average waitstaff wage and tip out
We are considering a restructure of our waitstaff wages, bonus scheme, and tip out. Here is the relevant data.
- We are a fine dining restaurant open for breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea (no dinners)
- Regular waitstaff make $7.25 per hour wage, plus tips.
- Tips typically run about $350 per day. This about is pooled and split between waitstaff on a prorata basis (based on number of hours worked)
- In addition to wages and tips, we give bonus to managers. This abouts to about $250 per month each.
- Owner has migrated from kitchen functions (e.g., cooking, baking, cake decorating) to working the front of the house. That include meeting and greeting customers, answering phones, busing tables, and handling merchandise sales. However, owner retains no tips.
- Historically, we have asked waitstaff to tip out to the Kitchen staff. This has amounted to roughly $50 of total pooled tips (or $25 per wait staff).

Because the Kitchen staff have become more productive (measured in terms of dollars we pay in Kitchen wages v.s., gross income from meal receipts), we are proposing to increase tip out to the Kitchen. The reason for this is two fold. 1) while the front of the house wages have gone steadily up, the kitchen as actually decreased - all during an increase in gross revenue. 2) To provide incentive / reward to the kitchen for providing quick order turn around. Waistaff can see that tips are directly proportional to quick service which is contingent on kitchen performance. If they don't get the kitchen performance, they lean on the kitchen very quickly. Kitchen, receives reward for good performance.

The question: Does this sound fair? Any flaws in this plan that are obvious that I might have missed? Any better ideas?

Queen Mary Tea
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December 8, 2004 6:01 PM quote 
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Personally I do not believe in tipping the kitchen staff. When similar sitituations have arose at my place I tend to just give the cooks another $40 bucks a week on thier check and tell them thanks for the effort.

That aside I would say if you are going to ask servers to tip out to them do it on a percentage basis rather then $25 per wait staff member. If the servers are turning more tables and revenue has picked up as a result of the owner working the front, the servers will not be losing money. But if you as them to tip out more just because the owner is helping them instead of the kitchen staff, I think you are going to see some upset folks. If you want to sell your idea though, explain to them that since they can't handle the dining room w/o the owner's help another front of house server will be required (costing them a full share of server tips) because it is more cost efficent to increase front of house staff rather than kitchen staff.
Just my 2 cents...
Mike
December 8, 2004 10:39 PM quote 
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Thank you for the input. Just to clarify; the tip out is a percentage. I quoted the dollar amount simply to give a rough idea of how much money we are talking about.

The main issue that we are trying to resolve is the wide gape in wages that the kitchen makes v.s., the waitstaff. In some cases, waitstaff are making $18 to $20 an hour (though their base wage is min wage $7.+ in Washington). Although an obvious solution is to pay kitchen staff more, we are competitive with other employers in this area, and my payroll is already high enough!
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December 9, 2004 12:15 AM quote 
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Perhaps different areas and different restaurants do things differently but in our restaurant, the kitchen staff would not even think of asking for a percentage of the servers tips and the servers would mutiny if they had to give them to the kitchen staff.

While I understand your reasoning for this, I personally think it is not a good policy. Servers in my area make 2.13 an hour and rely on their tips to support families, pay for college, etc. Our kitchen staff are well paid so that they too can support their families.

Who brought this up in your restaurant to begin with? And why? Maybe that is what you really need to look at. Just my 2 cents. Gina
December 9, 2004 1:17 AM quote 
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Gina, as he said his server's minimum wage is $7/hour, not the $2.13/hr server vs a higher cook wage some states have.

The first place I worked at pooled and split tips once a week. No problems and we all worked great together. The second place I worked at didn't, although the waitresses were 'encouraged' to tip the kitchen staff they thought it ridiculous and never did. Attitude of everyone there, including the owners, really stank. It needs to be a set policy from the get-go if it's going to work, and works best with employees who have a great work attitude to begin with. If they don't like it, they'll soon be off to another job so really no problems there. It often works best for those that aren't already used to taking the whole tip but if the server's overall wages increase over a previous job and/or they have a good attitude they might not mind the split.

As a note, at the first place I worked at there was relative that pitched in to help take orders on a couple of tables one night. She then came by and pocketed the tips while the rest of us were dumbfounded as the whole team had been busting our butts all day (you know, prep, cleaning and the whole nine yards) and here she did a few minutes of work to "help out" and pocketed the pay. Now some might agree with her, but it all depends on the set up of the place. At that place we all were paid very little overall, but it was an awesome place to work with great people. Tip day was always fun since it was equally split according to time worked, but duties were also equalled out.

~ Linda
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