Casual dining place Joe’s Crab Shack is going where no man or woman has gone before — well, at least in recent times.
The Texas-based eatery said they are doing away with tipping. RTT News has reported that the seafood restaurant will be paying employees $12 per hour which will mean a 12-to-15 percent increase an order to offset the wage increase.
I suppose this will work out fine for the diner who normally pays Joe’s Crabs around $14 per order, according to some industry sources. But then, going out to a nice sit-down seafood dinner isn’t cheap. Seafood, especially fresh seafood, isn’t cheap.
Time will tell how well a change in such a long-held practice will add to the cost of living for restaurant workers whose livelihoods rely on tips. I would imagine it would depend on where one lives. Back in the late 1980s I worked for a lunch-crowd cafe for what was then the prevailing minimum wage of $3.35 an hour. Jeez, it didn’t even seem that much back then. In 2012 dollars for 1988, that would be $6.48 an hour, according to U.S. Department of Labor figures. Oh, and I was never tipped there. Even then with minimum wage I had to work three jobs to stay afloat in my crappy little trailer house. A friend, who lived elsewhere, let me live there for free except I had to pay rent for the lot. The best I can remember electricity, water and cable were free. It was a pretty sweet deal except for the fact I could barely hold my head above that free water.
There are, of course, true service professionals who earn a very good living in upscale restaurants one mainly find in large cities. Perhaps waiters in a smaller to mid-sized cities can make a decent living or perhaps stay afloat in college. But when you think about it $12 is not a whole s**t-pot of loot. I make $20.60 per hour, working 32 hours per week, and it isn’t a whole lot of money.
Despite my trying to sound clever with a Star Trek-style lead, Joe’s isn’t the only restaurant that doesn’t allow tips. I know at least one casual dining place where I live that has a posted policy of no tipping. The Georgia-based McAlister’s Deli, at least the one where I eat in Southeast Texas, posts the no-tipping sign, saying the restaurant’s employees are well-paid and do not need tips.
Looking around on the ‘net, it seems like the Sonic Drive-In chain purposely keeps its policy toward gratuity on the sly. I see pages and pages where people inquire if you should tip your Sonic carhop. What I don’t see are answers.
I know at least at one newspaper where I had worked, a local Sonic had been questioned as to whether its carhops should be tipped. The answer was no.
Part of the uncertainty about tipping in restaurants is the franchising of such places as Sonic and McAllister’s. What the corporate types tell the franchisee is not usually discussed in the open.
I have notice in the past few years, I suppose it grew along with the Recession of ’08, that everywhere one looked workers were asking for tips. This includes workers who, I would think, do not depend on tips. I have seen signs requesting tips in such places as Quiznos, where the customer stands from the time they place their order until it is completed.
So there are plenty of questions as to how well those companies who stop tipping will fare. Will it come out good for the worker? The same question can be asked for the customers and owners. For many, such policies might just seem as if they are headed into the deep, dark spaces of the universe. Then again, I may be wrong and probably a little over-dramatic.