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Friday, July 31, 2020

Toronto restaurant raises prices and bans tipping

The owners of a Toronto restaurant have decided there will be no tipping allowed at Richmond Station.

The Financial District restaurant known for its burger and seasonal cuisine opened today for indoor dining as part of Stage 3. But don't go there expecting to add 18 per cent to your meal since tipping is now banned under a program called Hospitality Included.

In a letter to their customers, posted on their website, owners Ryan Donovan and Carl Heinrich addressed social distancing as well as other COVID-19 policies but most importantly, they let their customers know that when they come back to visit the Richmond Street restaurant, tipping will be eliminated and as a result the menu prices are higher.

"The first thing you'll notice, after the masks and signs everywhere, is that the menu prices are higher. We have built in an eighteen percent average price increase across our product offerings, and now, the hospitality is included," the letter said. "In fact, we call this type of restaurant service, Hospitality Included."

Hospitality Included describes a restaurant that has eliminated tipping and instead of tips, all necessary revenue to properly compensate the staff is already built into the menu items.

The letter also mentioned that prompts for leaving tips on top of the bill total will be removed from payment terminals at the restaurant.

The owners let their customers know through their letter that this was no easy decision and they had been looking into "no-tipping" models since 2016 but it was the pandemic that pushed them to finally implement this new policy.

"Richmond Station has always been a professional environment for staff of all stripes, from tenured veterans of hospitality to part time students to travelling cooks to aspiring artists," Donovan told blogTO.

"And while we have taken significant steps to ensure Richmond Station is always best-in-class for employee compensation and career development, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing financial aid packages offered by the federal government, have exposed an enduring gap between workers with fully insured wages and benefits from those employees working in industries entrenched in tipping culture, where cash disbursements are standard forms of incentive and compensation."

Banning tipping isn't the only idea the owners had in 2016 that is finally coming to life.

"Today we have the opportunity to rebuild Richmond Station as we've always wanted to see it," says Donovan.

"For example, we have long flirted with buying 'certified organic' and since 2016 we have moved more and more of our purchasing to this standard. But upon reopening in June 2020, we doubled down on this commitment and now our beef and pork will always be certified organic. This comes at a great expense to us, but it's the right thing to do."

According to Donovan, eliminating tips is also the "right thing to do" but comes at an additional expense to the restaurant.

"We will bear the cost of additional tax commitments as we distribute additional payroll dollars," he said. But according to the co-owner, he and Heinrich want their staff to have the same entitlements to the social safety net as their professional peers in other industries.

According to Donovan and Heinrich's letter, employees aren't the only ones to benefit from the program - customers will benefit as well.

"Customers will no-longer need to wait until the end of their meal to pay the bill. The full cost of your experience with us can be calculated in real time as you are ordering."

They describe it as being like when you use a ride sharing app or a food delivery service.

"Imagine, when you're ready to leave we'll all be able to simply say thank you and good bye."

They also mention that although they appreciate the generosity of their customers, they ask that people refrain from tipping on top of the new raised prices.

"We would encourage you to consider how great you feel about your service experience with us, and consider any number of other steps, including; returning again soon, leaving a positive review online, recommending us to a friend or family member, or just saying thank you!"

Because of Hospitality Included, the Richmond Station owners say their staff will be paid more. Their goal is to match the cash distributions that were the norm in "tipping culture."

The owners say that many full time staff will move to salaried positions while part-time staff will all see increases in their hourly pay.

According to a Toronto Sun article, Heinrich said, "we would like to control how our staff get paid. Our staff should get paid with (insurable) earnings on their paycheque and we want to abolish the system of tipping that's predatory: It's racist, it's sexist and it's not fair."

"Richmond Station has long sought to unravel the tipping culture that is woven into the daily mechanics of the hospitality industry," Donovan told blogTO.

Richmond Station started doing takeout at the end of June and opened a curb lane patio on July 25.

Their opening day in compliance with Stage 3 is today and they will start by offering a dozen seats inside, according to Donovan.

by Sami Chazonoff via blogTO

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