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pennbrew

Tip envy

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How to deal with the issue of kitchen staff jealousy of the tips earned by servers? We run a small brewery/pub with a pizza kitchen. A typical night we have our pizza maker and one bartender, my partner and I help out in the kitchen or bar as needed when we get busy. On a busy night the bartender can earn $150-$250 in tips. On a slow night, probably $40 to $80. We pay our pizzamaker a straight $8 per hour, which in our area is not a bad wage for the work but is obviously a disparity with what the bartender can earn.

When hired we told him the lay of the land. He has indicated his desire to tend bar and we have occasionally let him fill in on the bar to earn some tips. Lately he's been grumbling more about wanting to bartend and it's to the point that it's about to cause serious friction in the operation. Needless to say we need him to do the job he was hired to do, making pizza.

Any advice as to how to deal with this issue? It's kind of frustrating that our customers' generosity is causing this problem, if the tips were $25 a night there'd be no problem.

Thanks!

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tips in my work place are pooled and then divided to all the staff according how many hours/hard they work eg causal staff will not get as much as full time staff and a full time staff members who do overtime or come in early to 'get the job done' will get more than those who dont .... i think the system is very fair. i dont see why in australia in a lot of other restaurants causal waitstaff who get paid more than qualifided chefs (who are working harder long days) are getting all the tips.

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I think you have three choices.

a) Make the servers share tips with kitchen staff, which will cause the servers to grumble.

b) Tell the kitchen staff to suck it up, which will cause them to grumble.

c) Pay the kitchen staff better wages, which will cause you to grumble.

If your cook is worth it I'd go for option C but that's just me.

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I've worked in the "suck it up" environment and in the "shared" environment. While getting a share of the tips is nice, I really don't worry over it. In fact, I usually just laugh if I hear other kitchen staff grumbling about it because there are not enough tips out there to get me to do a server's job. They can keep what they earn as far as I'm concerned.

I couldn't live on $8/hr. though, so I might be a little more interested in that case. But as you said, he knew the situation going in. If a better wage isn't an option for the business and you can't do anything about the tips because of agreements already in place with other employees and the need to keep him doing the job he was hired to do then he has to "suck it up" or move on. Only you know what the possibility of his moving on means to your business but regardless, the first thing I'd do is straighten him out about the grumbling. You can think it, outside of work you can say it, if you need to talk about it then come see me and let's talk but don't cause friction during business hours complaining about it to everybody in the building.

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I don't think i've ever worked in a place where the kitchen staff gets a cut of the tips. To me, that's just outlandish. BoH get's paid crap for long hours in a small hot room, and FoH gets to deal with the asshats known as the general public, and tend to take home after 2 shifts what the cooks take home in a week - that's just how it is.

The 8 bucks per hour does seem pretty low though. I wont lie, even by kitchen standards, that's low. I mean hell, i worked at a bar like 10 years ago on fry station and still took home more than that. And that was in Maine. Maine doesn't pay shit.

That aside, has this person ever worked in a kitchen before? Doesn't sound like it. FoH pulling in more money is just a fact of life - although just as a side note, maybe if FoH is able to pull in that much, business is decent enough to squeeze in just a tad for more for kitchen? Wouldn't be such a bad idea, if possible.

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do you want to keep this pizza maker or not?

If you do, then sharing tips is a good way to do it. If you don't want to keep this person, and are willing to be in a position where you are filling the pizza maker job on a regular basis then don't. It's all about how you want to take care of your staff. If this guy is good, or has potential to be groomed for another position in your organization; if he's reliable and trustworthy, those are valuable attributes in an employee. I don't know that pizza maker is the kind of job you're going to get someone to stay in for years and years so whatever policy you put in place now is one that has to stay no matter who is making the pizza.

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FoH is a sales position and sales often makes the most money in any organization. If your pizza maker wants to be a bartender or server because of the pay, he should pursue that line of work. But it ain't easy. I was a server years ago and absolutely hated it. Dealing with the public can be incredibly stressful and many aren't cut out for it. Those who do it well deserve every penny. IMHO.

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Find a pizza maker that wants his own pizzeria someday, not his own bar.

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Normally, I would be of the "suck it up" philosophy. However, from looking at your website and reading the Beer Advocate reviews I get the impression your particular business is rather small: maybe 4 or 5 total employees, including yourself. I'm not even sure you have "servers" in the traditional sense, though I could be wrong about this. So if 4 of the 5 employees are making a respectable income, but one is not, I could see why there would be some dissatisfaction. Especially in such a small business, where each person's value to the company as a whole is quite substantial.

I will say, I found the last BA review to be a bit interesting in that the reviewer noted: "What makes the trip worthwhile in itself is the pizza." If your pizza cook is bringing in business, being a bit more egalitarian with the wages might be prudent.

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You're right it is a very small operation. Everyone we've hired was told the same thing, we have little money to pay a good wage. We're still a very young, financially fragile company. My partner and I have yet to draw any pay. If things work out well down the road (and we have been growing), I certainly want to compensate our long-timers better.

It has turned out that the bartenders do well sooner than anticipated thanks to our customers' generosity. Although I'm happy for them, it has created this situation. Even if we were to bump the pizza maker's pay to, say, $10-$12 an hour, there'd still be a big pay disparity and friction.

I guess there's no easy answer and this is a common problem in food service. We want to treat all our employees fairly but there's the old adage: you can't please everyone all the time.

A common suggestion has been to share tips with the pizzamaker. My brief research on the internet shows that this violates federal and state labor laws. A tipped employee can not be forced to share tips with a non-service employee. We certainly can't open ourselves up to liability by violating these laws.

Damn, this is tough! All I know is making beer, not running a food service establishment!!

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This issue is the one most cited behind the new fixed (meaning: included) tipping rates at many top-end restaurants, including Thomas Keller's.

Daniel Boulud mentions that a promising sous-chef left his kitchen to wait tables, because that's where there was money to be made.

I've waited tables in several restaurants, and I know it can be hard work. The pay can sometimes be low: I once worked in a place where the owner got all the tips, and we subsisted on minimum wage (needless to say, there was a high turnover on staff there).

But in general, waiting tables pays much, much better than other jobs that also require hard work. I can't imagine that the constant whining by waiters, a la Waiter Rant, gets much sympathy from kitchen staff... or anyone else working a low-wage, customer service job.

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Do you want this individual working the FOH if he complains in the BOH? He'll turn off, what's sounds like, solid clientele with his whining and complaining.

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I am sorry but min wage pay for kitchen work is sickening hell dishwashers here make like 12 bucks an hour and this is a low paying area to work load Maine as mentioned above.

If you don't bother to pay employees a fair wage for the portion of business they are responsible for don't expect happy employees. I mean if you like the idea that your employees are at what a little over half way to reaching the poverty line in yearly income then more power to you. I mean really this guy is probably taking home like $8,000.00 a year after taxes, that barely covers a studio apt and nothing else for the year its questionable whether they could have utilities turned on with that pay in many areas on top of the rent.

so you on one hand have a guy who is pocketing a couple bills a night probably most likely not getting claimed and another who is probably walking with 40 bucks for a full workday after taxes that's not disparity that's just laughable.

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too bad you can't put a tip jar out for the pizza maker!

I know, I know, it's tacky. Makes me think of all those coffee places with a jar out for tips but how else can you draw attention to the fact that you have no wait staff (presumably) but someone's making the food and getting it to the tables...

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I am sorry but min wage pay for kitchen work is sickening hell dishwashers here make like 12 bucks an hour and this is a low paying area to work load Maine as mentioned above.

If you don't bother to pay employees a fair wage for the portion of business they are responsible for don't expect happy employees. I mean if you like the idea that your employees are at what a little over half way to reaching the poverty line in yearly income then more power to you. I mean really this guy is probably taking home like $8,000.00 a year after taxes, that barely covers a studio apt and nothing else for the year its questionable whether they could have utilities turned on with that pay in many areas on top of the rent.

so you on one hand have a guy who is pocketing a couple bills a night probably most likely not getting claimed and another who is probably walking with 40 bucks for a full workday after taxes that's not disparity that's just laughable.

i agree ... just pay the guy more ... i remember when i was a first year apprentice i was getting paid $4.90 an hour it was horrible

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Agreed that 75 cents above minimum wage is really, really low for even the most basic kitchen job. There is some skill involved, isn't there?

Even if legally you can't FORCE people to share tips, you can sit down with the bartenders and explain how far a little sharing would go to making the whole place run better. Its not forcing, its encouraging.

Isn't it standard for servers to tip out the bar and their bussers? Why not the pizza guy? I have worked a few places where the kitchen got tips - a very small portion, maybe 3%? - usually ending up at around $100 a month per cook. Even that little bit goes a long way towards diminishing resentment. Encourage your bartenders to throw a couple bucks a night in the pizza guys direction and to stop talking about how much they made. A little discretion really helps too. The kitchen DOES NOT want to hear that the bartender is walking with $200 on a saturday night. Keep it quiet, share a little, and do give that guy an extra dollar an hour (at least) if he is doing a good job.


Edited by pastrygirl (log)

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1) Your pizza maker has tasted of the forbidden fruit.....

When any of my cooks start whinging to me about tips, I tell them either to take their apron off and go into the dining room, or to keep it on and work in the kitchen. Thier choice, but they have to make up their minds NOW!!!!

Yes, minimum sucks, BUT......

If the waiters were hired without the express instructions that tips would be shared, and now they suddenly are, you will have trouble on your hands.

Your pizza maker's loyalty lies with whomever can cover his rent. Either he works p/t as bartender, or f/t as pizzaollo, but not both.

Or you will have trouble on your hands..........

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You can change the policy to share tips, but in that case, you will probably lose the bartender. Where does the largest percentage of your revenue come from? Which employee would you rather keep / which is easier to replace? How does the work really break down? Does the pizza guy stay strictly in the kitchen, or does he sometimes take orders and/or run food out to the tables, which might justify sharing tips with him? What will be better in the long=term?

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If your clientele is that generous, what about adding something like this to the menu:

Kitchen — cans o’ beer

6 Pack for the Kitchen — $10

As an FYI, I took this from the Publican's menu. You could modify it to suit your clientele/geographic area. Maybe something along the lines of "beer for the kitchen" and have the price be whatever you'd charge for a single beer. It's sort of a "tip jar" for the kitchen, but a little more formalized. May also get you around any legal hurdles.

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The above is not something I'd want to do in N.America.

Have no problems with beer, and have no problems with cooks drinking beer--- as long as it isOFF DUTY, and somewhere away from their place of employment.......

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Yeah, i'm sure someone would rather have cash. I still say, just give them higher pay. It's that simple. It's been pretty much unanimous that 8 is REALLY low, especially if the pizza is a focal point of your business - regardless of that fact, most dishwashers don't even get that low. I wouldn't bother trying to get them tips, because back of the house shouldn't and working in the back, in most cases, just doesn't get tips. It's just strange and dumb. And will also probably piss off FoH now as well.

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Is the bartender getting tips on full checks (alcohol plus food) or just on alcohol?

If it's the former, I'd ask him to tip out to the pizza maker, the amount depending on what percentage of the check was for food. (ETA--if you were to ask him to do that, he may decide just to tip out a set percentage which would also be fair and easier) It would be very unfair if he were making a lot of money based on the work of the pizza maker, especially since he, himself, is not technically a server.

Another option is to exclude him from serving customers directly. That way the server (I assume that's you or your partner) can split the tips however you see fit.


Edited by prasantrin (log)

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If your clientele is that generous, what about adding something like this to the menu:

Kitchen — cans o’ beer

6 Pack for the Kitchen — $10

As an FYI, I took this from the Publican's menu. You could modify it to suit your clientele/geographic area. Maybe something along the lines of "beer for the kitchen" and have the price be whatever you'd charge for a single beer. It's sort of a "tip jar" for the kitchen, but a little more formalized. May also get you around any legal hurdles.

I should have clarified this. The "beer for the kitchen" is more symbolism. Give the money (ie "tip") to your pizza maker.

That said, if one of the top restaurants in Chicago can make it work . . .

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I don't have a lot of experience with this sort of thing, but at the pub I used to work at (first as a pot washer and then as a waitress) we split tips between all the staff. It was good for moral, as everyone was earning very little, and I think it encouraged us to work together as a team because everyone wanted the customers to leave a good tip.

Mind you, this was just a little English pub so I guess it will be different on a larger scale or where more money is involved.

Incidentally, some customers would buy drinks for the staff (soft drinks for consumption straight away or a beer for the end of the night) that they knew. I know that my Dad would often go in when my brother (the pub was a very good source of local employment!) was working a particularly long shift and pay for a beer for him. Maybe you could put a little note at the bottom of the menu letting your customers know they are welcome to do that if they really enjoy their meal and want to thank the kitchen staff?

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