Le Pigeon—chef Gabe Rucker's Frenchified restaurant we called one of the finest in Portland in our Restaurant Guide this year—is jumping on the rising tide of restaurateurs moving to eliminate tipping from their restaurants.
Or, more to the point, prices will rise to absorb what you would've tipped anyway—unless you're a terrible person we don't want to know.
The money will still go to the staff. But now it'll also go to the cooks and the dishwashers and all the other people who make the restaurant a nice place to be.
Which is to say, this is part of a movement to make restaurant staff pay more equitable, so the servers don't get tons of money while back-of-house staff struggles to pay rent.
Restaurants like Park Kitchen and Bent Brick have already announced they're making this move; Kurt Huffman's Loyal Legion also did so, and began with a cash-only policy. (Their credit card slips now have a tipping slot.) Andy Ricker did so in Los Angeles, and then un-did so—saying it confused people.
"Everybody's scared to shit of being the first mover on this," Huffman told WW in February. "You do this [automatic gratuity], and all of a sudden you're losing your best people. But most of these restaurants are chef-run restaurants. In Portland, not a lot of restaurants are opened by front-of-house people, so they want there to be more equity."
Anyway, Le Pigeon is a chef-run restaurant. (Here—read our account of its famed burger.) And they're one of the first movers on this.
Sister restaurant Little Bird will not be affected, says staff there. The no-tipping policy at Le Pigeon will begin June 18.
So… if you've got a particular favorite server you want to give tons of money to? You've got a couple months. Go buy them some dentistry or solid-gold frames for their glasses, or something.
Here's their press release from today.
LE PIGEON TO ELIMINATE TIPPING BEGINNING JUNE 18, 2016
Two-time James Beard Award winning Chef/Co-owner Gabriel Rucker and Co-owner Andy Fortgang to transition away from traditional tipping structure at Le Pigeon
Portland, Ore., March 16th, 2016 – For quite a while Chef/Co-owner Gabriel Rucker and Co-owner Andy Fortgang of Portland, Oregon's Le Pigeon have been discussing eliminating tips. Last fall when New York restaurateur Danny Meyer announced that all the restaurants in the Union Square Hospitality Group would be eliminating tipping, Fortgang and Rucker knew it was time to follow suit and be a part of leading that charge in Portland.
Since last fall they have been looking at the best way to do this and have decided the simplest way is the best way. No tips will be accepted and credit card slips will have no tip line. Guests will sign, and be on their way without needing a calculator. Prices will increase, but only to compensate for the absence of gratuity. The final cost of eating at Le Pigeon will remain the same.
The benefits are threefold. First, cooks and dishwashers will be paid a higher wage. Second, servers will receive a more consistent income with their hourly wage increasing significantly. Furthermore, management will be able to reward servers who perform well as compensation will be managed by their supervisors who know them well and can evaluate their daily performance. Thirdly, guests will know what they are paying up front, and have no need to compute a gratuity later.
This past week a meeting was held with service staff to announce the new plan, and it was welcomed warmly. Le Pigeon is a tight team and a pathway for more wage equity amongst the staff was cheered, as was more consistency in week to week pay for service staff.
"While this will represent a change for Le Pigeon's guests, we are confident that our guests will likewise find this arrangement beneficial," says co-owner Andy Fortgang. "We are confident as well in the service team, made up of experienced professionals that love what they do and take service very, very seriously."
Le Pigeon knows guests want to give feedback on their experience, and values the feedback they receive in order to do better. Regrettably the tip system has never provided much feedback. Where some people leave 15%, some 18%, some 20% as their standard tip, it can be difficult to derive guests' opinion. Le Pigeon will be instituting a web or email based vehicle that guests can use to describe their dining experiences, in order to receive direct feedback and in turn improve service. This platform is in development and will be launched in June.