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Some People Don’t Seem to Understand How Montreal’s ‘No Tipping’ Restaurants Work

No, the owners aren’t stealing from their staff

Tips at a Colorado winery
Helen H. Richardson/Shutterstock

In yet another case of people reading headlines but not articles, two Montreal restaurants have been on the receiving end of insults and accusations for adopting no-tipping policies.

In September, two Petite-Patrie venues decided to do away with tipping, a first for full service restaurants in the city — newcomer Bistro Rosie, a small neighbourhood restaurant, opened its doors with the no-tipping rule, and was quickly followed by nearby restaurant Zéro 8, a longer-running establishment that abolished tipping with the agreement of its staff.

The moves drew media attention from various outlets, and led to people messaging the restaurants and posting nasty comments and reviews on Facebook pages. Bistro Rosie received a number of one-star reviews (suspiciously, all on the same day). Zéro 8 received similar treatment (the exact same “review” from Clo Bru appeared), with comments accusing the restaurants of abolishing tips so they could raise prices, allowing owners to profit. and implying that these restaurants’ staff remain stuck on minimum wage.

Payer vos employés comme il se doit en leur laissant leur pourboire à place de vous remplir les poches !! DÉSOLANT

Posted by Clo Bru on Friday, September 22, 2017

La Propriétaire augmente les prix et gère en fait les pourboires ,donc pas compliquer la différence du 13pourcent d augmentation elle se l a met dans la poche .

Posted by Belair Gilles on Friday, September 22, 2017

According to Bistro Rosie co-owner Sophie Duchastel de Montrouge, the restaurant also received a number of aggressive messages criticizing the policy (although Duchastel de Montrouge adds that she also received plenty of praise for it). Even Eater Montreal received a message from a “hospitality professional of 30 years who knows what she’s talking about”, accusing Eater of profiting from servers, and having a clientele “so cheap that we have to add such a surcharge” (presumably, this was intended for a restaurant, as Eater does not own a restaurant, nor does it employ servers).

Over on a Facebook group for restaurant staff in Montreal, similar arguments were trotted out: accusing no-tip restaurant owners of “stealing”, and saying that without tipping, nobody will want to work in restaurants. Somehow, the restaurant industry in Australia manages to survive without mandatory tipping, and with a minimum wage not much higher than Canada (once living costs are factored in).

The problem is that all these arguments seem to hinge on the idea that staff wages at no-tipping restaurants remain the same as everywhere else (that is, minimum wage for servers and dishwashers, and as low as $12 for cooks, although kitchen pay varies a lot). But that’s not the case: as Duchastal de Montrouge spelled out in a Facebook reply to “all those who are bombarding us with insults”, the restaurant has three pay levels, based on experience (and not the job performed — chef, server, etc.) — $15/hour for inexperienced staff, going up to $25/hour for experienced staff. There’s also opportunities for staff to get raises, notes Duchastal de Montrouge. Plus (as she spelled out to Eater previously), the restaurant did not tack on a 15 per cent surcharge to cover service; the prices were calculated with an all-encompassing view of the income required to run the restaurant and pay staff.

Pour ceux qui nous bombardent d'insultes, voici une idée du pourquoi et du comment de la politique ZÉRO POURBOIRE chez...

Posted by Bistro rosie on Friday, September 22, 2017

Over at Zéro 8, the situation is less clear: the restaurant doesn’t appear to add a surcharge, but it does promise that all staff will get at least $15/hour (it’s implied that they could get paid more, but owner Dominique Dion hasn’t spelled out the pay scales).

While it’s true that servers can clear $30/hour or more at busy or high-end restaurants, to argue that Rosie is somehow robbing its staff by paying up to $25/hour is myopic — with the exception of restaurants that are constantly busy and booked out (Joe Beef and such), server pay can vary wildly: if a shift coincides with a bad snowstorm, hockey playoffs, or just a quiet weekday night, a server will walk away with far less. Even on a busy night, if a server lands tables who drink water instead of a bottle of wine, they will similarly go home with less. It may not be a system to the taste of every server, but there are plenty of servers out there who would appreciate knowing that they’re guaranteed to go home with a certain (and livable) wage.

Then there’s the idea of fairness: depending on the restaurant, kitchen staff often benefit minimally from tips, and in equivalent casual, neighbourhood spots, it would be unlikely for those in the kitchen to clear $20/hour — making working somewhere like Rosie an enticing idea (plus, given an impending shortage of kitchen staff, it means Rosie should have less trouble attracting competent workers), and it might just make the kitchen staff and servers get along better, knowing there’s not a vast pay gap between the two.

In short — places like Rosie and Zéro 8 do not appear to be getting rid of tips so owners can pocket the difference (a popular conspiracy elsewhere, too); it’s more about offering staff more reliable and equal wages. Duchastal de Montrouge notes that the ITHQ took interest in her business model and invited her to speak to a class, so mercifully, there are at least some in the industry who understand it.

ZÉRO 8

1141 rue Bélanger, Montréal, QC

Bistro Rosie

1498 Rue Bélanger, Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC H2G 1A7 (514) 303-2010 Visit Website

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