Six prominent Portland restaurants plan to go gratuity free - KPTV - FOX 12

Six prominent Portland restaurants plan to go gratuity free

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The owner of two Portland restaurants said that eliminating tipping will end customer confusion and help him plan for increases in Oregon’s minimum wage. (KPTV) The owner of two Portland restaurants said that eliminating tipping will end customer confusion and help him plan for increases in Oregon’s minimum wage. (KPTV)

Six prominent Portland restaurants say they are taking tips off the table in a bold move that means customers will no longer pay gratuity at all.

The six restaurants include Park Kitchen, The Bent Brick, Farm Spirit, Le Pigeon, Navarre and Luce.

Business owners will begin using a new “gratuity free” logo on websites, menus, social media and in windows to let customers know about the change.

Acclaimed restaurateur Scott Dolich said he’s making the switch and hopes others will follow suit.

“My overall hope is that this will slowly evolve in the restaurant industry,” Dolich explained. “This is really one of the last industries that has held on to tips."

A tip can mean a lot of things to a customer. For some it means they liked their meal, while others liked the service. Some patrons feel like they just had to tip.

The problem, according to Dolich, is that restaurant owners can never tell the difference, so a good tip is always up for interpretation.

“There are mixed messages with tipping,” Dolich said. “Someone can come in and tip 15 percent and think that’s good, but it leaves us thinking, ‘what did we do wrong?”

To put an end to all that confusion, the restaurant chef and owner says he’s taking tips off the table at Park Kitchen and The Bent Brick. 

Dolich said the main reason for the gratuity-free movement, though, is that it’s a way for him to deal with the rise of minimum wage, especially in the wake of a recent federal court ruling that banned staff from being able to share tips.

“A lot of restaurateurs are talking about this right now. Almost every restaurateur I know, this is one of the first things on their mind,” Dolich said.

Dropping tips marks the second phase in Scott Dolich’s "One House" service model, where staff at both of his restaurants is now fully trained and executing traditional “front of the house” and “back of the house” roles, from serving to food preparation to cooking.Overall menu prices will increase by 18 percent so that he may compensate all employees equitably, competitively and professionally.  Dolich also said he has increased schedules to full-time, thereby allowing them to qualify for the restaurant’s health insurance plan.

Dolich said it has been a tough sell to some employees, and he has even lost some staff because of this new business model. Ultimately,though, he thinks it’s the way to go.

Now, he just has to get customers on board.

“I’ve had some people say, ‘I don’t like it, I’d much rather have control of tipping a server in hopes of getting better service,’ said Dolich. “To those people all we can say is come in and try it and see what its like.”

Dolich is not the first restaurant owner in Portland to attempt a move away from tipping. When beer hall The Loyal Legion opened past year, the owners started with higher wages and no gratuity.

In April, the owners changed the policy and allowed customers to tip, saying that they were facing high turnover rates among the waitstaff. Customers also seemed to be confused and left tips regardless of the earlier policy.

Le Pigeon is implementing a no-tip model starting June 18.  Park Kitchen will officially drop tips on July 1 and The Bent Brick on July 2.  Farm Spirit has been gratuity-free since it opened in June of 2015.  Navarre and Luce will make the change before the end of the year, according to Dolich.

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