Restaurant Reviews

Rare Earth Wine Bar in Glens Falls Says No to Tipping

January 10, 2014

Rare Earth and Wine Bar

Earlier in the week Steve Barnes wrote an article on the no tipping policy that has been implemented for the brand new Glens Falls wine bar, Rare Earth Wine Bar.

After last night’s soft opening, I have yet to hear from any of the patrons who attended, but I haven’t been able to get this idea of no tipping off my mind.

At first, you think wow – what a great idea. The patrons don’t have to worry about anything aside from what they’re actually ordering, and the staff is paid a higher wage hourly because of it. But the more you think about it, the more you think about what could go wrong.

When a waiter or waitress is working a shift, usually it’s only 6-7 hours unless they’re pulling a double. So if they’re getting paid even $15 an hour (they’ll receive $12-$15), that will only be a total of maybe $105 per shift. On some nights, I’m sure this salary will be much appreciated by staff, but on those crazy busy nights that a waitstaff lives for, they could ultimately be giving up an additional $150-$200 without receiving any tips (depending on how good they are).

What this policy could also create is lack of enthusiasm with the waitstaff. Yes, you’re getting paid decent money, but you don’t have to really work for that tip anymore, so what’s keeping you motivated to give patrons a great experience?

Finally – where will they make up for that money? Will the food costs be higher due to this policy? I know they haven’t released the menu online yet, but from the article Steve wrote, small plates will range from $3-$20 and wine will range from $7.50-$20.

Something I find extra interesting and unique about Rare Earth Wine Bar is that all the staff will be treated equally, and the owners Paul Parker (formerly chef/owner of Chez Sophie) and Michael Belanger expect all staff to understand all positions within a restaurant. There will be no division between kitchen and front-of-house, and everyone will be expected to know how to make the food, do the dishes, serve, etc.

As one of the first restaurants in the area to adopt these policies, I’m really looking forward to seeing how it impacts the business itself as well as the experience.

I’d love to know what you all think about this idea. Do you think it’s great or would you rather pay a tip for the experience? Did any of you attend the soft opening last night and would like to share? I’m opening the floor to you guys!

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  • Reply Michael Belanger January 10, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    Hey Ashley! You raised many of the points that we thought about when we first entertained this idea of no tipping. And believe me, the debate was ardent and often ferocious (in a ferociously friendly way). However, to conceptualize this as simply a no tipping strategy would be to miss many of the other aspect of the compensation plan that the employees have opted for.

    First of all the point of any policy in a business is to enhance the prospects for that business and to improve selected or all aspects of each stakeholders interest. As one of the owners I have invested a considerable amount of my time and money in the project and I have a right to guard that interest. At the same time I want an excited and motivated staff who will deliver on the promise of an extraordinary experience. For them to do that the business, principally Paul and I, must invest in our staff in terms of training and philosophy so that they understand intimately what we believe to be the standard of excellent service.

    The hourly pay is simply one component of our compensation plan Add to that a substantial benefits package, weekly training in wine and food as well on on the job training, the empowerment of directing the charitable donations that we take in in lieu of gratuities, and finally the profit sharing plan that should deliver a level of pay commensurate or better than most tipped positions. Together we believe our plan puts the incentives the employee sees in direct alignment with the objectives of the business, it allows for the business, through its employees, to be an active advocate for charitable giving within the local community, and importantly to us, it bridges a front of house/back of house divide that a tipping establishment frequently has.

    For these reasons we have opted for this approach and with every employee focussed on the things that are important for the business rather than on how to get a bigger tip from customer “A” we think we do everyone a greater service. These are some further things to think about when looking at this approach rather than a narrow look at one aspect of our compensation plan.

    • Reply Ashley January 10, 2014 at 3:30 pm

      Hi Michael! Thank you so much for taking the time to explain your rational behind the no tipping system you’ve adopted at your new restaurant. It’s so much more helpful to hear straight from the owner why you’ve decided to do what you’re doing, and how you think it will benefit your restaurant. I also really love the fact that if there is a tip left, you’ll be donating it to a good cause. Bravo! I can’t wait to come to your restaurant and experience it all for myself! Thanks again for reaching out 🙂

      • Reply Michael Belanger January 11, 2014 at 2:11 am

        My pleasure Ashley. I look forward to greeting you when you do arrange to visit us in beautiful Glens Falls!

        • Reply Phyllis Mayer January 16, 2014 at 1:15 pm

          Michael: who benefits from the tax write off from the donations to the charitys? Is it the servers or the owners? Thanks

  • Reply Brian March 5, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    There are certainly some servers that would prefer the boom-bust cycle of many restaurants, because of those insanely good days. There are no doubt others who prefer the predictability of a stable hourly wage (and, it seems, good benefits, which is rare in the non-unionized part of the industry). There are more than enough offerings in the Glens Falls-Lake George area for those who prefer the former. Being more inclined toward the latter, it’s good that there’s an option for such workers.

    Some have raised questions as to whether the policy is a violation of federal labor law. Given that it’s the staff itself who votes on where to donate the money, it makes the answer less clear.

  • Reply Brian March 5, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Though I’d add that as a consumer, I prefer the no tip policy. Including a decent wage and benefits into the advertised price is a much more intellectually honest way of doing business… that being how virtually every other industry works.

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