Three Seattle restaurants announced Tuesday they won’t be accepting tips – but instead will charge patrons an 18.5 percent service fee.
The Walrus and the Carpenter oyster bar in Ballard, The Whale Wins in Fremont, and Barnacle in Ballard – all part of the Sea Creatures company – are the restaurants swapping tips for the service fee.
“We are making this move now, in part because of the Federal Affordable Care Act, the City of Seattle Minimum Wage Ordinance, and changing interpretations of the Fair Labor Standards Act; but mostly because we believe that it is right thing to do for our employees, and by extension, our customers,” read a letter from Sea Creatures Renee Erickson, Jeremy Price and Chad Dale.
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The service charge can be shared among employees making a smaller wage gap between workers with different roles, the owners said.
A service charge will help us to provide comprehensive benefits to employees, including health insurance and matching retirement savings accounts,” the letter read.
Last month, Ivar’s became the first sit-down Seattle restaurant to pay all employees $15 an hour, ahead of Seattle’s phased-in minimum wage schedule that began April 1.
The two restaurant locations saw increased prices and eliminated tips.
The president of Ivar’s, Bob Donegan, said the front of the house staff generally makes about $60,000 a year when factoring in tips, while the back of the house makes around $30,000.
“This will allow us to equalize that and bring the people in the back of the house much higher than they’ve been in the past,” Donegan said.
In sharing the built-in 17 percent tip among all staff, servers will take 8 percent of that. Donegan said they will be taking a smaller percentage of the tip on a larger bill, while being paid more per hour.
He said the result should be that servers make the same or more than they did before.
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