As expected, restaurant groups, who have greater sway and resources than individual restaurateurs, continue to lead the way to a new, largely tip-free service model. The shift is often piecemeal in the case of companies whose holdings range beyond Seattle, where the rising minimum wage has forced many hands.
The latest to adapt is Schwartz Brothers Restaurants, whose three Seattle eateries, Daniel's Broiler steakhouses in South Lake Union and Leschi and Chandler's Crabhouse, will implement a 20% service charge starting April 5. Outside the city limits, the company currently has no plans to make such a move, which means Daniel's Broiler Bellevue and Spazzo in Redmond will stick to their old ways.
The 20% charge won't go directly to servers, who will receive benefits and earn the base minimum wage based on Seattle's "large employers" schedule (currently $12.50/hour), as Schwartz Brothers has more than 500 employees. Employees will also receive an unspecified commission based on sales, according to president and CEO Lindsey Schwartz, who says everyone seems to be on board with the changes.
"We met with the teams at all three restaurants last week, and we got into some thorough conversations about it," Schwartz told Eater. "We've done lots of due diligence, lots of research, and we're optimistic."
Schwartz said the decision to add a service charge rather than simply increase prices and eliminate tipping altogether was based on what other similar restaurants are doing. "We want to be offering competitive pricing within our market," he said. In what Schwartz considers a fine dining category, "You see it mostly done through service charge and we wanted to be more consistent with our peers."
As for maintaining a positive customer relationship, Schwartz said, "We've been in business for 46 years and i think in order to sustain any business for that long, you've got to understand how to provide great service to the customer. That's something we work really hard at every day and we'll continue to do that. We'll make sure our restaurants are still places people go and feel like they get a great experience."