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An experiment in tip pooling...

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An experiment in tip pooling...

Blue Donkey Blues | Mar 6, 2002 06:19 PM

. . Hello, all. I'm new to this site, having sought it out for two reasons. One, to join a discussion board for personal enjoyment. Secondly, so that I can hopefully learn from others things that might help the store in which I work. This post may be a bit lengthy, so please bear with me.
. I work in a little coffe shop / deli in a city called Beaumont, in Texas, about an hour east of Houston. It's a very nice, borderline swanky establishment, catering mostly to the upper-middle-class-plus professionals (predominantly lawyers) who work in the downtown area. Beaumont's downtown is quite small, and we pretty much have the market cornered. We still don't do all that much business, though, because of Beaumont's small population. It's called Liberty Market and Cafe. It's a rather neat concempt, blending self- and full-service together in a way that was previously unknown to me. The store is currently open only for lunch, six days a week. We are changing our theme, however, and will be converting to the tablecloth / candlelight / full-service gig, open for both lunch and dinner. The transistion is being made gradually, starting by opening at night, for the next couple of weekends, trying out our new ideas using the nine four-tops we have inside and the one quad on the sidewalk. So far, we only have three future-servers on the payroll, myself included. Of these three, I am the only one with any extensive restaurant experience. That takes into account the proprietors and the kitchen staff, as well.
. Yesterday, the owner and I sat down to discuss how the front-of-house wage and tip-share system should be set up. She, at first, had a tip-share system in mind which would pretty much gank the servers to pay for some of the other spots, as many tip-share systems will do. At first I thought I may have to protest in my usual manner, by walking out (I'm one of those arrogant, if-you-screw-me-in-the-least-I'm-gone, type of waiters). My grumpiness was premature, however, as she was quite open and responsive to other suggestions. After we talked a bit, she decided to try out something that I had seen in one of my previous jobs. It is about this particular system that I seek your advice.
. It would be set up so that all tips would be pooled, cash and credit, over and under the table. The tip pool would accumulate in weekly blocks, and these blocks would be compared to the time-punch records for that corresponding week. The total tip pool total would be divided by the total number of front-of-house man-hours punched, and the quotient would be doled out to each employee for every hour he or she worked that week. The money would be carried on the paycheck. As a simple example, let's say for one week, two thousand dollars were collected in tips. During that week, let's pretend there were two hundred man-hours clocked by all front-of-house employees. That puts the quotient at $10 / hour. If I worked forty hours that week, my check would include four-hundred dollars (before tax) in addition to my standard hourly wage ($2.13 per hour, I'm presuming).
. All non-server, front-of-house positions would be filled by servers, although we don't have the details of how we are going to rotate these shifts yet. All positions would count the same as far as pay was concerned. One hour tending bar would pay the same as one hour bussing, or one hour hosting, or serving. If a salaried person, such as a proprietor or manager, were to fill one of these slots for a shift, they would not receive tips for doing so.
. This system sounds great to me.
. These are the pros I have thought of so far :
- Teamwork would be the number one aspect of the entire front-of-house. The tips collected off of my fellow servers' tables are just as important to me as the tips collected from tables which I, myself, serve. This idea is pretty much what feeds the other positive aspects I will list below.
- Management will use greater scrutiny when hiring servers (I will continue to use this term, even though "servers" in our store will actually fill all front-of-house roles), because if a new server does not or cannot pull their own weight, or is dishonest, the morale of the entire front-of-house staff would drop. This means new hires will have a higher level of commitment and integrity relative to the norm.
- There will be less competition for shifts behind the bar, and less negative effect on the the attitudes of those who must run food or bus.
- Training of servers by other servers would be more thorough, as everyone earns from everyone else's work. It would be an excellent environment in which a new server could learn the ropes. It would also be a great place for more experienced servers to hone their training skills.
- Managers and proprietors would sometimes fill front-of-house shifts, adding to the overall service (and therefore the overall total of the tip pool), without drawing from the tip pool. This means that the servers benefit more from such situtations than they would in other restaurants.
- With tips being paid to the servers on paychecks (presumably every week, not every two weeks) as opposed to every day, the servers who wait tables so that they can get f**ked up every night won't want to work here. Instead, the system would attract and keep more mature, more responsible servers. This also allows young servers to learn better financial responsibility (something I have always lacked due in part to the the daily income of restaurant life).
- Servers are less likely to just disappear during or at the end of their shift one night, as they know they will have to come back into the store to receive their tips with their paycheck (which would otherwise be nominal). Not appealling to someone thinking about pulling a blatent scam on the house.
. Here are some of the down sides :
- All servers are not equal in experience, raw skill, and attitude. If one server is more adept at what they do than another, the better server stills makes the same amount of money per hour. This goes against what many servers feel is one of the most important aspects of working for tips.
- Where, in most restaurants, dishonest servers usually steal from the house, dishonest servers in this type of work environment would more likely be stealing from other servers.
- Paranoia, or perhaps reasonable suspicion, on the part of one server concerning the integrity of another server, or that of management, may possibly be heightened, as it will have a potentially greater financial effect of the server harboring the suspicion. This may, possibly, eat away at the teamwork, or nudge a borderline dishonest server into giving in and keeping some of the cash tips they pick up off their tables for themselves.
. That's about all I can think of for right now, although I'm sure more will occur to me later.
. They reason (finally) that I posted this message was to receive feedback from others in the restaurant industry about this method of running a floor. I would very much appreciate any advice, shared experiences, or questions from anyone listening (reading...whatever).
. Well, I've had a couple of glasses of wine already (it's my day off), and I'm ready for an early afternoon nap. Thank you for letting me take up your time like this. I look forward to your response.

Rudy

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