Amanda Cohen’s Dirt Candy, a trendy vegetarian restaurant, which recently moved to a bigger location in East Manhattan, has been tip-free for nine months now. The lauded business, which offers vegetarian cuisines and a light-hearted atmosphere, decided to add a 20% administrative fee to guest checks when they opened at their new location in February 2015.
Cohen admits she was afraid customers and employees would be upset about the administrative fee, but so far she has been shocked at how well-accepted it has been.
“…Nobody has said anything about the tipping at all. Every day we’re like, ‘Okay, I think this is actually working’,” Cohen said to the New York Eater.
Cohen says her staff has embraced the change as well. Everyone she has talked to has the attitude of, “‘If I can make my $200 a night consistently, five nights a week, then great.’ They don’t feel the need to have the high of a really big tip one night. They’re coming into work and they’re getting paid, and if we had a blizzard, they’d still get paid. So they seem pretty happy with it.”
The administrative fee has allowed Cohen to step up servers’ wages to $25 to $30 an hour. Unlike tips, which are distributed among servers, runners, and bussers, the administrative charge is dispersed to all employees, including cooks and dishwashers.
“I’m just redistributing so that there’s not a huge discrepancy between the front of the house and back of the house,” Cohen says. “I can’t pay my cooks $10 [an hour] anymore and expect them to live in New York.”
Dirt Candy cooks’ wages are now at least $18 to $19 an hour and dishwashers start at $15 an hour, with raises as they become seasoned with the company.
Currently, the minimum wage in New York is $8 an hour.
Cohen says she chose to go with the administrative fee rather than the service included method of raising menu prices because she was afraid of “sticker shock”; that the higher prices would be off-putting to customers. She claims by putting “We do not accept tips” in huge letters on the bottom of menus and receipts (a solution delivered by Leebro POS), keeping prices reasonable, and adding a 20% fee, customers are relieved of their mathematical conundrum and the employees are compensated with a fair, livable wage.
Dirt Candy relies on the expertise of Leebro POS for its POS solution. The restaurant utilizes an iPad Air at the bar and three iPad Minis used as mobile devices for order-at-the table and pay-at-the-table. Leebro POS built a custom guest receipt layout to describe the idea of no tipping and add an automatic administrative fee with a short explanation to all checks.