Views / Just Saying

Canada's first no-tipping restaurant opens in B.C. What's not to love?

It may cost more, especially when you add in the ferry ride to Vancouver Island, but we’ll have to start having lunch at Smoke ‘N Water, the new restaurant at the Pacific Shores Resort in Parksville.

Not only does the food look simple and good, Smoke ‘N Water has a spectacular 6,000-gallon fish tank/aquarium.

Smoke ‘N Water opened yesterday, and although I’ve been vigilantly scanning the Vancouver Island news, there are no reports of server riots or customer fainting spells. But it’s still early …

As you may remember, I’ve written about tipping before, almost exactly a year ago, when a number of U.S. restaurants introduced a no-tipping policy. But this is Canada, land of peace, order and everything should stay the same.

Food industry experts are calling owner David Jones naive for his view that “tipping is a broken business model” but anyone who ever tries to do anything is naive. Until it succeeds.

Jones is going to actually pay his servers a living wage — between $20 and $24 an hour. Notoriously underpaid and overworked cooks will get $16 to $18. He’ll even pay medical and dental, which is rare in Restaurantland.

Here’s the hitch — prices will be about 18 per cent higher than the average. Jones is betting you’ll pay roughly the same as you would if you left a tip just so you don’t have to leave a tip.

So let’s do the math. At $24 an hour that’s $192 for an eight-hour shift. If you’re earning minimum wage, which is $10.25 in B.C., you make a base of $82. You have to make up the rest on tips. Granted, servers can make more than $100 a day on tips, but they have to do a lot of stupid server tricks to make sure they get one — pretend to love everything on the menu, put little smiley faces on the bill, hover anxiously and expectantly while the customer figures out the 15 or 20 per cent.

This way, you get paid and retain your dignity. Crazy.

It’s too early to tell if this will set a trend or if Smoke ‘N Water will turn into so much smoke-‘n-water damage. But what’s not to like? If you’re a customer, you can walk into a restaurant expecting good service to be part of the, um, service, not requiring an extra bribe. If you’re a server, you’re a member of a fairly paid team that works together to provide a superior dining experience. Like a grown-up.

And if you’re David Jones, columnists across the continent write about your new restaurant the day after it opens.

Naive, eh?

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