Gratuities are no longer accepted at Joe’s Crab Shack.
The Fairview Heights restaurant at 51 Ludwig Drrive is one of 18 in the chain of more than 130 seafood eateries to serve as a test market for the tip-free policy.
No service charge is being added to customers’ bills to replace the gratuity. Menu prices have been adjusted slightly to account for the added labor, but “typically less than the average 20 percent tip,” according to the company. As a result, the restaurant’s hosts, servers and bartenders and workers are being paid higher hourly wages.
Ray Blanchette, chief executive officer of parent company Ignite Restaurant Group, said tipping is antiquated, and many restaurants across the country have been migrating away from it. He said the chain made the move to create a better environment for both customers and employees.
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It’s simple, really. We believe that consistently great service should always be included in the menu price, so we are taking the responsibility for paying the service staff.
Ray Blanchette, Chief Executive Officer, Ignite Restaurants
“It’s simple, really,” Blanchette said. “We believe that consistently great service should always be included in the menu price, so we are taking the responsibility for paying the service staff.”
Joe’s Crab Shack is the first national chain to implement the trend, which some high-end restaurants have already embraced. The Houston-based chain started its policy in August with a few restaurants and has gradually added more.
The Fairview Heights restaurant started its no-tip policy on Oct. 13. Other Joe’s Crab Shack locations involved in the experiment are located in St. Louis; Independence, Mo.; Peoria; Schaumburg; and others in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Nebraska and Utah.
Customers who ate lunch at the Fairview Heights restaurant Thursday had mixed reactions to the new policy. Although Belleville resident and professional cook Shmir Mager works with wait staff who make below minimum wage and depend on tips, she said she likes the idea — as long as wait staff see a raise in their pay.
I know how they feel. I think it’s a good idea. I think they should stop the tips and raise what they pay them.
Shmir Mager, Belleville resident
“I know how they feel,” Mager said. “I think it’s a good idea. I think they should stop the tips and raise what they pay them.”
Customer Phyllis Brown said she had waited tables for more than 20 years, and if she were still working, she would rather still work for tips. The 83-year-old said it was the tips she received that helped provide for her family.
“I lived on tips for a long time,” Brown said. “Really, I don’t see anything wrong with tipping.”
Blanchette said the company has set no timeline for the experiment and is wanting to learn more from employees and customers.
“We have a responsibility to give our employees the best possible future while providing the best service to our guests,” he said. “We look forward to learning more from this pilot program over the coming months.”
The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour generally doesn’t apply to employees who receive tips on the job. Although it varies among states, the minimum cash requirement for a tipped employee is $2.13 an hour in direct wages if that amount plus the tips received equals at least the federal minimum wage.
Some of the top restaurants in the country are eliminating tips and have raised the wages of employees to coincide with the change to create a more equitable pay environment for all workers. Often restaurants increase the cost of menu items to be able to cover the additional labor costs to keep up with the change.
The trend is occurring as workers in many cities stage rallies and boycotts to get laws in local jurisdictions to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. They have been successful in some places such as San Francisco and Seattle.
Efforts by the Obama administration to get the minimum wage increased nationally have been unsuccessful. Congress in 2007 approved a three-step increase in the minimum wage, which at that time had been stuck for 10 years at $5.15. In 2009, the minimum wage rose from $6.55 an hour to $7.25 in the last step.
The Kansas City Star contributed to this report.