In an effort to help employees receive a more consistent income, Caffe Ibis eliminated tipping in exchange for increased menu prices and wages earlier this year. Despite challenges other businesses have reportedly faced when trying to implement this model, cafe staff say the change is working well.
“There are a lot of ebbs and flows when it comes to tipping,” said Dawna Anderson, the general manager of Caffe Ibis. “It was important to make sure that the staff was taken care of by the company and not dependent on whoever walks in.”
The change, made at the end of July, plays a part in a national conversation about the ethics and effectiveness of tipping.
According to a 2018 article in The New Yorker, before 2013 few full-service eateries in the United States included gratuity in the price of the meal and most of them would be considered very high-end. Over the past five or six years, other news articles have detailed both the increase in restaurants going tip-free and the challenges that have led many to abandon the practice.
The same New Yorker article lists some of these challenges, including a decrease in business, sticker shock at higher menu prices and online reviews dropping. Other articles on the topic write that despite the attempt to better pay staff, employees making tips are often able to make more money than those who are not.
In implementing the policy at Caffe Ibis, Anderson said research was done on what had and hadn’t worked at other places and steps were taken to ensure the store remained competitive with other businesses.
For example, she said the average increase of prices on the menu was about a dollar; however, not all items saw that price increase.
Products like coffee beans and T-shirts cost the same as they did in the past. Drip coffee saw a minimal price increase in comparison to more complicated blended drinks which, had a higher cost increase. In adjusting pricing, Anderson said efforts were made to keep the menu in line with similar businesses in the industry.
When it comes to paying staff, Anderson said wages were increased and research was done to make sure they were being paid above a living wage for the area and not losing money from the lack of tips.
Megan May, who has worked as a barista at the cafe for almost four years, said she had been skeptical of the idea at first, but after learning about the efforts management was taking to ensure wages remained the same, she supported it. May said staff members participated in an anonymous vote on the matter, which she also appreciated.
“When budgeting with money, it’s kind of nice to get a big paycheck at once and then be able to save a little money that way,” May said.
Both Anderson and May said they like the idea of a company taking care of its employees and then the employees taking care of customers, rather than expecting customers to also ensure the employees’ wages were supplemented.
“As a customer, to be able to go in and not have to figure out whether or not I should be tipping, that is a huge one,” Anderson said. “When you go into the bank you know that they are making what they should be making, instead of going somewhere else and being like, ‘What should I be tipping?’”
Since the policy was implemented almost four months ago, Anderson said she hasn’t seen a significant change in the store’s online reviews and that the overall community response has been positive. If tips are left at the store, Anderson said the money is donated to a nonprofit organization.