By Arnesia Young on February 11, 2022
“Our staff are treated like adults, with ‘real jobs.’”
Working in the service industry can be a notoriously thankless job. With many industry professionals like waiters and waitresses dependent on customer tips to earn a livable wage, an added layer of stress is often brought into the precarious dynamic of work-life balance. Rather than incorporating the cost of labor into their expenses, the majority of restaurants in America transfer that cost onto customers in the form of tips—leaving their hard-working employees dangling haplessly in the mix with no safety net. But the owners of one San Francisco restaurant have been bucking the status quo for years with an innovative “tip-free” model that offers all their staff a living wage, full benefits, and even a share of the eatery’s profits.
The popular San Francisco brunch spot, Zazie, went tip-free back in 2015 under the leadership of its second owner, Jennifer Piallat. And in order to accommodate her ambitious new venture, menu prices had to increase by 20 percent across the board. But despite the pushback she might have expected, customers were actually satisfied with the changes overall. “In fact, one customer said she expected sticker shock, but that the menu still looks reasonable,” Piallat remarked after implementing the new system.
And even more so than the customers, her employees are the ones who have truly embraced the change with open arms. When the “no-tip” model was first established, all of Piallat’s employees received a raise and were earning anywhere from $15 to $20 per hour. In all, servers got a 3% to 7% boost in their wages, while the back of house staff enjoyed a whopping 35% increase. Now, Zazie’s staff makes anywhere from $30 to $65 per hour. In addition, 25% of every menu item is paid out directly to staff as revenue share.