To Our Valued Customers,
When you come to visit us at Richmond Station, our team will explain to you that tipping has been eliminated at the restaurant. Our prices have increased across our product offerings, and the hospitality is included. In fact, we call this type of restaurant service, Hospitality Included. We’re asking you not to tip on top of the bill total, and these prompts have been removed from our payment terminals.
There are a lot of reasons for this change and our hope is that this page will help explain what Hospitality Included is, how it works and why it is an important step to take. Before we do though, you should know that this was not a quick decision. We have researched Hospitality Included and “no-tipping” models since 2016. That year, we made some major changes to the way the tips at Richmond Station were distributed – specifically, we made that distribution more equitable across all the jobs in our company and simultaneously eliminated “server minimum wage” while implementing a company wide health care incentive. Those changes made our workplace more equitable by shrinking the pay gap between front-of-house and back-of-house employees. We had been inching towards a version of Richmond Station that has eliminated tipping, and in 2020 we took one more important step – this one, together with you.
Ryan, Carl, & Hayden
WHAT IS HOSPITALITY INCLUDED (HI)?
Hospitality Included describes the service at a restaurant that has eliminated tipping. Instead of tips, all the necessary revenue to properly compensate all staff members is already built into the menu items. At these restaurants, the hospitality is included in the pricing – and you don’t have to pay extra at the end for it.
WHERE DID HOSPITALITY INCLUDED ORIGINATE?
While there are many cultures in the world that have never needed, or long ago disposed of, tipping culture, the term Hospitality Included was coined by New York restaurateur Danny Meyer in 2017 when his restaurant group began phasing out tipping.
WHAT DOES HOSPITALITY INCLUDED ACHIEVE THAT TIPPING DOES NOT?
Hospitality Included is designed to compensate the entire team – in both the kitchen and the dining room – more equitably, competitively, and professionally, and provides a clear path for professional development. Tipping culture has many insufficiencies. For starters, it leaves many employees living substantially on uninsured cash hand-outs. Tipping culture is also poorly legislated in Ontario and Canada – there is little guidance from the government on best practices and there is even less oversight. This means that tipping culture is often predatory, punitive and objectifying. Hospitality Included is a positive step towards improving the compensation model and work environment for all restaurant staff. Hospitality Included requires team service – and it rewards team service, too. With HI in place, restaurant staff across the team can be allocated fair compensation that is predictable from day to day, insurable insofar as it increases an employee’s government entitlements such as employment insurance, vacation pay and contributions to the Canada Pension Plan. Not to mention, it also helps all employees plan for life’s big events – getting an education, buying a home, starting a family, filing for maternity and paternity benefits, and retiring.
CAN I LEAVE A TIP ANYWAYS?
We know that your generosity comes from a great place – and as a team we want you to feel great about your experience with us, and consider any number of other steps, including; returning again soon, leaving a positive review online, recommending us to a friend or family member, or just saying thank you. As much as we discourage tipping at Richmond Station, sometimes our guests insist. Any money left beyond the cost of your meal will be split evenly among our entire team, based on the amount of hours they worked. These earnings are added to their paychecks and only further increase their insurable benefits.
If it is at ever possible to describe a court case about tax legislation “fascinating”, then we would say this recent decision regarding a restaurant in Nova Scotia and the CRA has a significant impact on the future of tipping in Canada. Here is the least boring version of that story.
In September 2022, Carl spoke with CBC’s Cross Country Check Up. This entire one hour discussion is wide ranging and a great primer if you’re on this page to learn about the impact of tipping on customers, employees and business owners.
HOW DO I KNOW THE STAFF ARE STILL BEING WELL COMPENSATED?
Everyone on our team is paid well above minimum wage, and most of our staff are now making a salary. Not only has Hospitality Included increased the pay rate for all of our staff, there is now a financial growth path for everyone that is more clear, an easier to pursue.
HAVEN’T MOST RESTAURANTS THAT SWITCHED TO HOSPITALITY INCLUDED HAD TO BACKTRACK FROM THAT DECISION, INCLUDING DANNY MEYER?
Many restaurants across North America have attempted to switch to no-tipping models and, certainly, many of them have returned to lower menu prices that rely on gratuities from guests to fully compensate staff. But most of these restaurants are in the US, where the tax code and labour standards are different.
In Canada, the tax code does not explicitly prohibit restaurants from gratuities to kitchen staff as it does in many American states.
In 2016, Richmond Station took bold steps to recalculate the distribution of gratuities in our restaurant. The recalculation was supported by other initiatives like the creation of a health care incentive, the elimination of “tipped minimum wage” and the addition of other financial incentives like funding for continuing education. All these steps taken already mean that as we make this final change to Hospitality Included, our focus is less about addressing pay inequity on our team and more about addressing how the social safety net can be woven underneath our staff, so it is as strong for them as it is for other professional workers in our communities.
CAN YOU OUTLINE THE BENEFITS OF HOSPITALITY INCLUDED FOR CUSTOMERS?
We know that Hospitality Included will offer a lot of benefit for customers.
Foremost, all our employees will now be compensated professionally with guaranteed, insurable wages that include them in national entitlement programs like employment insurance, maternity & paternity leave, vacation pay and our national pension program. Long term and reliable compensation that is woven into our social safety net is a cornerstone of professional employment. Raising the floor for employees across our restaurant will encourage them to build a long-term professional career with our company. This means customers will see the same faces, time and time again. As you visit with us more, you will get to know our team and our team will get to know you.
Beyond that, customers will no longer feel the social pressure of leaving a tip. The number on the bill is the total amount that you pay, the cost of your service is included.
CAN YOU OUTLINE THE BENEFITS OF HOSPITALITY INCLUDED FOR STAFF?
While all our staff will likely miss collecting cash on a daily or weekly basis, the fact of the matter is, tipping has been proven time and again to be sexist, racist, prejudiced and predatory. Every employee hopes to avoid having those traits present in their workplace. Beyond the benefit of moving away from these negative traits, our staff will now find it much easier to qualify for a mortgage, claim a livable maternity or paternity premium, plan for a vacation, or simply look at their bank balance to understand their current cash position. Vacation pay and holiday pay are also increased correspondingly. For professionals that have always earned their salaries as insurable earnings, these problems might seem foreign – but for restaurant staff across North America they are true struggles.
WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT HOSPITALITY INCLUDED & THE CULTURE OF TIPPING?
In 2014, Kathleen Kingsbury of The Boston Globe won the Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles that exposed the inequities of the tipping system and its impact on restaurant workers. We encourage you to become educated on this topic and you can read Kingsbury’s work here.
On July 27th 2020, Ryan Donovan and Kasra Khorramnejad spoke to Gill Deacon of CBC about how and why Richmond Station eliminated tipping. Listen Here.
On August 1st, 2020, Carl spoke to Ted Woloshyn of Newstalk 1010 about the transition to Hospitality Included and the ins-and-out tipping. Listen Here.
WHAT IF A GUEST IS NOT HAPPY WITH THEIR SERVICE AND THEY ARE UPSET ABOUT NO LONGER HAVING THE OPTION TO WITHHOLD A GRATUITY?
We have always aimed to have every guest leave happy and want to come back – that is our core philosophy. Prior to Hospitality Included, we would always insist that guests are communicative with the house, the management, if they are unhappy with any aspect of their experience. It is very rare that a guest would communicate dissatisfaction via a punitive tip. That said, there will be no change for guests, employees or the restaurant going forward. Richmond Station will always bear the cost if the guest experience is compromised, and an employee’s compensation should not hang in the balance. Indeed, it is the hallmark of the professional atmosphere enjoyed by pilots, nurses, teachers, etc – their compensation does not float up and down based on the quality of their flights, health care offering and lesson plans.
Beyond that, staff and guests should know that many studies have shown that tipping culture does not provide customers with better service nor is there any evidence that better service receives better tips nor that worse service receives worse tips. Studies show that guests are creatures of habit and consistently tip within a self-enforced range regardless of the service experience.
ARE THE COOKS GOING TO GET AN INCREASE IN PAY?
Certainly a benefit of HI is that our restaurant can distribute salaries across the team more fairly. But truthfully, Richmond Station took significant steps in 2016 to rearrange how cash gratuities were distributed. That change really flattened out any significant inequalities as we were able to raise hourly wages for front-of-house staff and increase the cash distribution to back-of-house staff. By removing tips from our restaurant entirely, we were able to complete the project we started in 2016 by firming up wages across all jobs while simultaneously implementing a well defined professional development pathway for all positions. In short, our goal is not necessarily to just increase pay for the kitchen staff, it is to make their pay more transparent and equitable.
HOW IS TIPPING “OFTEN PREDATORY, PUNITIVE AND OBJECTIFYING”?
In a restaurant that endorses tipping, an employee’s path to more earnings is through the customer. In our shared society, there are laws in place that ensure that employees are treated fairly by their employer. For example, there are standards for compensation, time-off allowance, workplace safety and workplace harassment. We all accept that some behaviours are not acceptable in any workplace.
But there are few if any laws that govern how customers treat employees. And in a tipping system, more than fifty-percent of an employee’s wages can be doled out by the customer. This creates an ungoverned power dynamic wherein employees wages are too often hanging in the balance, in real time, as they navigate their customer interaction. While most customer interactions are pleasant, safe and respectful, this power dynamic can lead to employees being objectified and preyed upon – and the customer holds the power to punish the employee for non-compliance in the form of punitive compensation. Now consider that an employer would never be granted these powers in our society, nor should they. Why, then, should any work culture enable the presence of this behaviour in any form? Tipping enables this power structure between customer and employee and makes the employee’s compensation, safety and self-worth subservient to the customer’s tip.
SO HOW MUCH WILL YOUR STAFF BE MAKING NOW THAT TIPS ARE NOT ALLOWED?
Truthfully, there are a few reasons we do not discuss in public what employees will make going forward.
It is unprofessional for us to publicly discuss our staff’s compensation, and indeed, the expectation that the community at large feels entitled to know what tipped employee’s earn in-and-of-itself illustrates the subservience that tipped employees endure compared to their professional counterparts. It is not polite to ask the pilot of your plane what they earn, nor is it reasonable that a clinician lays bare their compensation package for public judgement. Employees are entitled to keep their wages private. A move away from tipping to Hospitality Included affords service staff this privacy.
To be sure, our increase in menu prices are distributed directly as wages. This is hundreds of thousands of dollars of additional wages for our team. What we do know, is how much wage is too little – and we are committed to exceeding that threshold.
Other restaurants in Toronto are taking up the banner to eliminate tipping and secure employee wages. Check out this article to learn more about where else you can eat out to support this cause.
In August 2020, Carl took the hot seat on BNN Bloomberg to discuss Hospitality Included. Watch it here.
Ofer H. Azar studies behavioral economics and, along with this students, has undertaken several studies to provide data that can help frame the discussion around tipping behavior. Azar’s most recent article on the subject can be found here. Is tipping culture sustainable? Does tipping have a connection with welfare? These are all questions Azar has addressed in years of research. Any why do people tip, anyways? This has always stumped economists, so much so, it is rarely studied. Why is it rarely studied? Well, economists often see no reason why guests tip after the service is provided – since their action then has no bearing on the service they will receive. If the tip happened before, that might make more sense. Azar’s work sheds light on how people tip and the downstream impact of that economic activity.
SO, NOW THAT YOU HAVE BEEN DOING THIS FOR YEARS, HOW ARE CUSTOMERS REACTING TO THE CHANGE?
Customers in our restaurant have a range of reactions. We communicate the change to every guest when they reserve, when they are sat and shown to the menu, and again when they are brought the bill. Many guests don’t notice the change and are pleasant as we explain to them what we have done. Some guests reserve their opinions until the end of their meal, cautious about the service experience they are about to embark on. A few guests each day will remark on the change right away, and indeed, some will mention it has why they have paid us a visit. And of course there are so many guests that say they are from France, Australia, Japan, or other places without a tipping culture, and that they look forward to North America moving away from the practice.
Beyond our immediate customers, we have been answering emails from across Canada and we like to think these people are all potential customers – as do all entrepreneurs. The support for the change has been overwhelmingly supportive. We hear people say that they have never wanted to be responsible for adjudicating the staff’s effort and that they often have anxiety at the end of their visit as they try to navigate the tip amount, hoping not to offend. Any entrepreneur will tell you that helping clients be less anxious is a good step.
Certainly, we have received input from people that disdain this change, and feel their opportunity to secure prompt service has been taken from them. We’re certain that is not a risk as we remove gratuities. Our staff are professionals: they are empathetic, educated, committed and well trained. We know that compensating them fairly, consistently and through insured and pensionable earnings will only bring about a better guest experience as our staff are empowered to make the decision we teach them to make. We work as a team, and always have.
For our most dedicated clients, they see the change to Hospitality Included not as a change, but as a better reflection of how we have always been.
HOW CAN I LET YOU KNOW WHAT I THINK?
We always want to know what you think. Please email us at email@example.com and include the words HOSPITALITY INCLUDED in the subject line.