North Carolina restaurant adds 20% ‘fair wage service fee’ to every bill

A restaurant in  Durham, North Carolina now adds a 20% gratuity “to every bill for dine-in customers, along with a message saying seen and unseen hourly wage workers are the backbone of the restaurant to help pay their workers a fair wage. ” Gray Brooks, the owner of the pizzaria, claims the added gratuity helps “close the wage gap between staff who traditionally did not make tips and those who did.” His dishwashers and prep cooks sometimes work two jobs just to get by. He hopes the added gratuity will help resolve this issue.

“The restaurant business is such a slim margin business, we were paying them as much as we could and it wasn’t enough,” Brooks said. “This was a way to sort of take that extra income and spread it out so that everybody was making enough to make a living.”

Brooks considered raising prices by 20% and eliminating tips but felt his new idea was more ‘transparent.’

Bartender Arturo Sanchez already made tips. He said closing the gap means he could end up with a little less some days, but it’s a trade-off because he won’t be short-changed during an off night.

“A little bit of a decrease in terms of what we’re bringing home every day, but that is gonna be sort of mitigated by the fact that there is less of a stress, and the knowledge that we’re sharing those tips with employees all throughout the restaurant,” Sanchez said.

According to MIT Living Wage Calculator, the living wage for a single adult in Durham County is $16 an hour, more than double the current minimum wage.

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