Kachka Swaps Tips for a Flat Service Fee to Better Pay Staff

The Russian-inspired Portland restaurant says it wants to use the flat charge to create a more equitable employment model.

New Year’s Day is a traditional launching point for resolutions. So it’s appropriate that on the afternoon of Jan. 1, 2022, Russian-inspired restaurant Kachka announced an intention of its own: a more equitable model for how it treats its employees.

Starting Jan. 6—the restaurant is on a holiday break until then—Kachka will provide free health care, a $25 an hour wage, and a better understanding of the restaurant’s finances to all its staff.

To pay for this, Kachka plans to add a 22% service fee—replacing the practice of an optional tip.

“Tipping, at its most innocent, creates inequity between ‘front-of-house’ and ‘back-of-house’ workers,” owners Bonnie and Israel Morales wrote in a press release. “And at its most sinister, continues a tradition of racism. Don’t believe us? Google ‘History of tipping in the US.’ Actually, please do even if you do believe us. We think this is one of our industry’s best-kept dirty secrets.”

The release linked to a New York Times opinion piece by author and civil rights advocate Michelle Alexander titled “Tipping Is a Legacy of Slavery.”

Kachka is certainly not the first Portland restaurant to go gratuity-free—and the city wasn’t at the front of the line on a national level either. However, the history of tip bans within U.S. fine dining is pocked with closed businesses, employee lawsuits and quiet returns to more conventional tipping models.

“This might not be the perfect solution,” the Kachka release closes, “but we know that inaction is worse. Some of our guests may disagree with how we choose to address this issue but please take into account that we are simply doing what we feel is best—both for our employees and our patrons—so that we can continue to offer you a stellar experience for years to come.”

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