Ontario restaurants are increasingly going tip-free

The pandemic and the fallout felt by the restaurant industry has prompted a conversation around tipping, and something of a reassessment of the culture. Now, some Ontario restaurants are beginning to adopt a tip-free model.

As noted by CTV News, the crux of restaurants’ argument for going tip-free is that by eliminating tips and increasing menu prices, they are able to pay their staff more and retain them.

One notable recent example has been Toronto’s Barque Smokehouse, which has a sign greeting customers when they enter that informs them they will not need to tip their servers. Every employee at Barque makes at least $22.25 an hour in order to match Toronto’s living wage, with many making more than that figure, according to Newsweek.

“Our cost of fairly compensating staff (including paid sick days, personal days, and health benefits) will be fully factored into our menu prices. Any gratuity is appreciated but completely unnecessary,” a statement from Barque explained.

“We always felt like the tip model was on the way out, no matter what,” owner David Neinstein told CTV News. “This is the right thing to do… [That wage] allows for stability and predictability of income. They get paid no matter what – doesn’t matter if it’s a Tuesday or a Saturday night, you get paid the same,” Neinstein said.

The restaurant officially adopted the model just over a month ago, and Neinstein says it’s been a huge success so far.

“We developed the policy along with our staff,” he said. “Because that’s the whole point – keeping a great team together. Keeping staff is better for morale, it’s better for talent, it’s less expensive for turnover.”

To Neinstein’s surprise, the restaurant hasn’t even received complaints about the rise in menu prices. Perhaps customers are aware of restaurants’ labour struggles and are even happy to have the burden of deciding on an amount to tip lifted from their shoulders.

“That was the one thing I was most worried about,” he said. “In fact, we’ve had very little resistance so far. It’s been very good.”

Devinder Chaudhary, owner of Aiana in Ottawa which also recently adopted a no-tip model, told CTV News that a salaried operation “normalizes and mainstreams our restaurant workers”.

“I strongly believe that it acknowledges that a restaurant job is not just a gig, it’s a career choice,” Chaudhary added. “For some of the guests, it’s a bit confusing, but that confusion lasts for about 15 seconds and it’s all very well received.

“The goal is to make this the norm. I expect, in the future, the government will make this policy and, unfortunately, it’s companies like ours that have to do it now, but hopefully, [that] won’t be necessary in the future.”