Mollusk, the adventurous South Lake Union restaurant and brewery run by the former Epic Ales/Gastropod team, has dropped its 20 percent service charge. The business will instead revert to the traditional tipping model.
Chef/owner Travis Kukull told The Seattle Times the neighborhood's lack of traffic has hurt business, which makes selling the service charge to employees tough. "Mollusk’s service charge was split equally between front-of-the-house and kitchen employees, bringing the latter up to $15 to $18 an hour," reports the Times. But "servers, bartenders and hosts were making significantly less than they had in their previous jobs."
In January, the restaurant told Eater that same lack of foot traffic led it to cut staff and drop lunch.
To help the kitchen staff make higher wages, Mollusk has increased its menu prices 10 percent. And Kukull told the Times he'd like to be able to end tipping again when things pick up. A traffic increase seems inevitable as the fast-growing neighborhood fills in more; right now, Mollusk sits in an uncommonly quiet spot in South Lake Union with plenty of unfinished buildings surround it. Chances are things will get busier.
Mollusk is perhaps the first Seattle establishment to try out the service charge then decide against it. The trend seems to be headed in the opposite direction, as restaurateurs Renee Erickson, Tom Douglas, Josh Henderson, and more have all instituted service charges in lieu of tips. Just last week, Daniel's Broiler and Chandler's Crabhouse made the shift.