New law could impact tips servers receive

The Highlander Public House
The Highlander Public House

WICHITA FALLS, Tx (RNN Texoma) - When tipping at a restaurant, you know your money is going to the server and maybe the bartender and busboy. But pretty soon your dollars could be going other places.

The U.S. Department of Labor is proposing that restaurants have their servers share tips among more employees.

It could be an option for some restaurant owners if they meet certain criteria. The change would apply to restaurants that pay at least minimum wage, don't take a tip credit, and share tips through a tip pool.

The Department of Labor believes it would decrease the disparity between tipped and non-tipped workers. But not all in the business feel that way.

"A lot of restaurants will have you tip the host and the busboy," Owner of the Highlander Public House, Erik Scott said. "We actually pay them a living wage so that the servers do not have to tip them out."

Scott believes he has a great staff at the Highlander Public House. He thinks part of the reason why is because servers get to keep all their tips with the option to tip out the bartender.

"Some servers work harder than other servers," Server Luke Duran said. "And some servers flip more tables and give better service. And if some aren't, then I don't think we should be making the same amount of money."

That's why Scott and Duran are not in favor of the Department of Labor's proposal for servers to share tips with not just front of the house workers like bus boys and hostesses, but the back of the house workers as well like cooks and dishwashers.

"What's their incentive for giving good guest service?" Scott asked. "They're the face of the restaurant and I think when they earn their tips it's their tips."

The Department of Labor said the back of the house employees contribute to the overall customer experience and deserved to be compensated for it. Scott said cooks make more per hour than any of his workers.

"Their job is different in that they're producing the same thing over and over and do not have to, this is going to sound wrong, but don't have to deal with the customers," Scott said.

He said the Department of Labor is a necessary entity that is just looking out for the workforce but said he wouldn't be comfortable forcing his servers to give their money away.

"There are a lot of places I've worked where servers come in and they don't want to make money," Duran said. "And being a server, if you want to make money, you will make as much money as you would like to make."

"They're the face," Scott said. "They work really hard to make the guest happy, to the point sometimes where they're screaming to the kitchen to get stuff out faster because their guest is upset. That's the kind of service I want in my restaurant. I want my servers to care."

Scott believes his servers are more likely to tip the bartenders better than he would mandate them too, and thinks it leads to a better work environment.

He said he will understand why some restaurants decide to do it if it becomes law, but added he wouldn't be able to sleep at night making that change, even if the business owner is the one that benefits.

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