Thursday, August 18, 2005

Thomas Keller has the Answer

According to a report from CNN - September 1, 2005 Thomas Keller is again breaking new ground in the restaurant business. Per Se, his famously famous top tiered Manhattan restaurant, will begin adding a 20% charge to diners tabs in lieu of tips.

Keller is trying to bridge the gap between wait staff and kitchen staff wages. Good FOH (front of the house) staff can makes near $100,000 a year in top tiered dining establishements and the BOH (back of the house) staff plods along in the $30,000 range no matter how good their food is prepared. I have thought for years the gap was too far apart. Many times I have eaten a fabulous meal only to be utterly disappointed with the service. Unfortunately there was never a way to send a message to the BOH to thank them for their efforts. I could only stiff the FOH on tips for thier lousy service. I have always wished I could tip the BOH. Then again there are those customers who, no matter what, will not be satisfied. In this scenario the FOH really earns their tips and usually not from these picky people. On average picky people are crummy tippers.

While I am not sure diners will appreciate the 20% surcharge to their meal, does anyone have a better solution? The problem lies with paying BOH one standard wage and allowing the FOH to be paid a much lower hourly wage in leiu of tips. The disparity does need a revamp. No one should have to grovel to be paid. Also the generosity of an individual depends not only on the FOH, but also the BOH. So why does one get tipped and one not? If we don't like the surcharge, we need to offer a different way of handling the tip thing. I'd like to hear from both sides ofthis fence on the issue. Are we short changing the wait staff by a surcharge of 20% while spreading the 20% over the entire staff by way of a better hourly wage?