No-tipping restaurants

Although B.C.'s minimum wage rose to $16.75 from $15.65 per hour on June 1, it still doesn't meet the calculated living wage for much of the province.

On May 31, one of the guests on the CBC Radio show "B.C. Today with Michelle Eliot" was Anastasia French, provincial manager for Living Wage for Families BC.

French said a living wage is calculated using a family of four—two parents (both working full-time) and two kids, and the real essentials the family needs to make ends meet.

"We've also done a similar calculation for a single person and it comes out relatively similar, because of the amount of government benefits that families with kids get.... It really is the bare minimum you need to be able to pay rent, pay for food and pay for essentials,” she said.

On the Living Wage for Families BC website the 2022 living wage calculations are posted for 23 B.C. communities. The living wage calculations for Kelowna and Kamloops were $22.88 per hour and $19.14 per hour respectively. (The program doesn't currently have a community partner in place for either Vernon or Penticton.) The 2023 calculations for all 23 communities will be posted in November.

The number of employers who have committed to pay their direct staff and contracted workers a living wage is 13 in Kelowna and 10 in Kamloops.

Here's a niche market idea I think could spread quickly, up-scale and fine dining restaurants that have a no tipping policy. All menu items would have a higher price than at a restaurant serving similar fare where tipping is expected.

Comparing the two types of restaurants, the patrons at the no-tipping and tipping restaurants would probably end up paying about the same price for a similar meal.

At no-tipping restaurants, all workers—from the chef to servers to dishwashers—would be paid at least a living wage, or more, depending on what their specific job is. (I assume an experienced chef would be paid more per hour than a dishwasher)

The employees would be happier, and the patrons, especially those who dislike tipping in the first place, wouldn't feel guilted into leaving a tip, whether the food and service met their expectations or not.

Since opening in June 2022, the upscale all-vegan Folke Restaurant in Vancouver has had a no-tipping policy. The menu changes based on ingredient availability and seasonality.

Who's going to be brave enough to start a no-tipping restaurant in the Okanagan? At the very least, it would probably generate a lot of free advertising for the restaurant in the local media.

Good word-of-mouth marketing would naturally follow if the dining experience includes flavourful food and friendly, attentive staff.

David Buckna, Kelowna

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