I am writing in response to “I’m a server. I back a tip credit if St. Paul raises the minimum wage” (Sept. 6).
Well, of course. The author indicated that he makes “well over $15 per hour,” which is the amount the minimum wage will increase to if St. Paul follows the lead of Minneapolis in raising its minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next four years.
The reason such a server would support a tip credit — which has been deemed a “tip penalty” on the Minneapolis side of the river — is that if customers know servers are making a lesser wage, they will want to subsidize their incomes by leaving a tip. This increases hourly pay to somewhere around $31/hour, by the author’s admission.
I wonder whether the author knows that the average wage for line cooks and dishwashers is currently around $14/hour, or that the managers often make less than servers?
The author worries that restaurateurs will introduce service charges or increase menu prices to maintain economic feasibility in an increased minimum wage environment, and that as a result, tipped workers — who include servers and bartenders — would receive 20 percent less in pay.
However, he fails to mention that the minimum wage, which is the pay rate that many tipped workers receive from the restaurant, has increased more than 30 percent over the last four years, to $9.65/hour from $7.25/hour in 2014. In Minneapolis, the minimum wage for employers with fewer than 100 employees (which is the majority of Minneapolis restaurants) is currently $10.25/hour, an increase of 41 percent from 2014.
What has not increased 30 to 40 percent is the revenue of restaurants — nor the wages of non-tipped employees, who include the prep cooks, line cooks, hosts and managers. These roles are equally important to a customer, yet each of these positions is barred by law from receiving any of the tip compensation that servers receive.
What’s more, with unemployment at a record low, it is a restaurant owner’s primary challenge to find prep cooks, line cooks, hosts and managers. I would suspect that restaurant owners are open to creating more controllable revenue in their restaurants, from which they could create the natural hierarchy and pay scale that typical businesses employ.
The introduction of tips in the restaurant workplace was meant to supplement the wages of the lowest-paid staff within the workplace, which used to be the servers. This social norm has worked so well that servers are now the highest-paid employees within any restaurant.
But it’s true that many customers are going to know that servers are making a higher wage these days, and they are going to find out that their tips are not necessarily shared with the rest of the staff, and they are going to tip less. Or better yet, they are going to ask the chef to visit their table, so that they can give a tip to the kitchen directly, so that the entire team can benefit.
It is not only the tipped workers who provide the experience that a customer enjoys, and it may be time for our culture to pivot to a new standard for providing a fair wage to all restaurant employees.
Susan Eder is owner of Cue the Accountant, a Twin Cities restaurant consulting firm.