on August 31, 2016 by in Golden News, Comments Off on Taking no tips for a year

Taking no tips for a year

Unlike other areas of the world, tipping at a restaurant is almost universally commonplace in the United States. However, Abrusci’s Italian Restaurant in Wheat Ridge is shifting away from this cultural norm by becoming one of the rst restaurants in the Denver area to use a service charge.

Abrusci’s restaurant manager Marvin Williams says that after doing away with tipping in July of 2016, he has seen customer service and the customer experience improve.

“Although it may have started as a compensation for the employees, something to allow them to have a constant living wage, it’s developed into more of giving great service.”

Williams sais that the restaurant was not trying to shift how restaurants think about tipping. Instead, he says the decision to implement the service charge was to create a more consistent income for the staff.

“Jeff and Nancy (Progar, the owners of Abrusci’s) had come to a point where the servers were having a lot of dif culty making ends meet. They had seen this (use of a service charge) being done on the East Coast and West Coast, and they found it intriguing that they could put everybody on a salary or a higher hourly wage and take away all of the negative stuff that comes with just trying to rely on tips.”

Customers dining at Abrusci’s receive an automatic 20 percent service charge onto their bill, yet Williams says the service charge should not be seen as just a tip since it doesn’t solely impact the waiter or waitress.

“That service charge goes to pay all of the staff in both back of the house and front of the house. The dishwasher, bussers, the kitchen staff, the hosts, hostesses, everybody makes a higher hourly wage. It doesn’t go directly to one particular person,” Williams said.

Williams said the cultural change in the consumer experience has actually helped Abrusci’s attract customers in certain cases. One such recent customer was Kendra, a Wheat Ridge local.

“We saw their note on their menu on the website, and we were curious about it because we just moved here and we had never seen that before!” she said.

Management at Abrusci’s said they hope the change to a service charge continues to have a positive effect on their business. However they say the change isn’t an effort to alter all of Denver’s cultural views about tipping.

“All great things are not done with the intention of changing everybody; changing yourself is where it starts. By taking away all of the negative things that comes with the tipping policy we were able to strip away all of the nasty stuff, and then it’s just about the service you give to the table,” Williams said.

The restaurant says opinions were mixed in the beginning.

“(Customers) felt like they were being forced to tip 20 percent, and that they didn’t have the ability to control the tip. It’s a big control thing. But the whole notion now is that if a server is good they’re going to give good service,” Williams said.

Not all recent Abrusci’s customers seemed happy with the change either.

“I guess from a certain consumer perspective, it was nice to already have the gratuity included for me so that I didn’t have to gure out what I should tip,” said diner Emily Hoskins. “But having worked in the industry, I always liked to have the tipping option because I’ve been that waitress, that hostess, that busser, so I understand what it takes to serve customers, and as a consumer I would like to implement that level of service I believed that I received into whatever tip I leave.”

Michael, another local Abrusci’s customer, took a similar stance.

“One thing I felt like was taken away, I sort of like leaving big tips, and you just don’t have that option here. I don’t know, I usually like to leave a little bit more than what I gave tonight.”

Despite not all customers embracing the change, Williams believes the service charge concept has allowed him to have a better staff, and service. He said the improvements will hopefully leave customers feeling the 20 percent service charged is justi ed.

“Granted, your hiring pool is a lot smaller because you’re not able to hire just anybody because they aren’t getting tipped, and the willingness of somebody to do this job without getting tipped is very small,” Williams said.

“But of those (remaining people), if you do really well training, you treat your staff right, you treat your customers right, then the seemingly forced gratuity becomes just a part of the bill.”

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