Chef Yia Vang is a restaurant owner in Minneapolis determined to get rid of the tipping system as he prepares to open his first brick-and-mortar restaurant, Vinai.
It’s personal for Vang. Growing up, he worked a bunch of restaurant jobs — cooking, dishwashing, preparing food. Those “back of house” workers usually make far less than waiters, who make tips, he says.
“I never questioned it because it was like, this is the way it is,” he says.
But as Vang rose through the ranks, he did start to question it.
So as he gets ready to open Vinai, Vang plans to compensate all his staff more and provide health care. The price of menu items might be a bit higher, but tipping won’t be an option, so he thinks it will mostly even out.
Getting rid of tipping is an approach that has been tried by other restaurants. Some have made it work, but others such as New York restaurateur Danny Meyer have abandoned the model.
For Vang getting rid of tipping is not only a sustainable business model – it’s a way to address the tipped wage structure head-on.
“I personally want to get rid of that front of the house, back of the house, and understand we’re one house,” he says. “And to do that, you have to start digging into these systemic issues that no one really talks about, because, you know that’s just how the industry works.”
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