PORTLAND, Ore. (KATU) – As the hospitality industry struggles with staffing, one Portland restaurant is starting to do things differently. Kachka eliminated tipping this week, replacing that model with a 22% service fee.
The owner said this creates a base wage of $25 an hour for all employees, and they're also able to provide healthcare.
Alek Hermon works in the kitchen as a prep lead. He's now considering new ways of saving money and taking vacations, telling KATU this will improve his quality of life.
"Considerably better. I think, relative to my spending and my living expenses, I have a lot more wiggle room now. My fiancée was able to get health insurance through here which was a huge, life-changing thing for her," Hermon said.
Owner Bonnie Morales said so far, the feedback has been mostly positive. But she has heard critiques from those who say they like to reward good service with tips.
"When you have a performance review at work your boss isn’t saying, “You know what, I’m going to cut your pay 20% today, this week because you aren’t doing so hot.” That doesn’t happen and that should not happen to any restaurant worker either," Morales said.
Morales said she recognizes other locations in Portland tried this model before, and ultimately went back to allowing tips.
"They folded that money into the cost of the goods, so they just raised their prices, and unfortunately, as a society, that doesn’t work because we’ve been conditioned for so long to pay for service outside of the cost of goods," she said.
Morales said tipping often benefits those working in the front of the house, while back of house employees don't usually see tips. The owner said she's communicated this change for months, and is not worried about losing staff.
Caitlin Midkiff is a server who said this was the right call.
"I started in kitchens too and I know what it’s like to see front of the house making a ton of money and not working as much and the kitchen always pulls in a lot of the weight, so I just think it’s awesome," Midkiff said.
Morales said her team wants to make sure the service fee does not come as a surprise. That's why they're sharing information on the website, reservation page and through a text alert before guests come inside.