OpenTable is a proud media sponsor of the second annual Golden Gate Restaurant Association Industry Conference! Leaders in the Bay Area restaurant community will gather April 11-12 to discuss the top challenges facing businesses today. Leading up to the conference, we’re talking to participants and panelists about trends and topics at the forefront of the industry.
Here, we talk to Jonathan Kauffman, staff writer at the San Francisco Chronicle, who will be moderating a panel called “The Tipping Point: A Year Later” all about the future of tipping in restaurants and bars.
This is something you’ve written about a good bit – tipping and changes in labor cost. Why are you so interested in this topic?
The easy answer is because so many people are talking about it in the industry. People are talking about rising costs on all fronts, but in particular about labor cost because of the rising minimum wage and how that’s expressed through tipping. The Bay Area has been one of the major crucibles for experiments with tipping, but Danny Meyer’s announcement that USHG restaurants would go tipless continues to reverberate throughout the industry.
On a personal note I’m fascinated by the topic because I was a cook before I was a writer, and as cooks we made very little money. Waiters in the same restaurant were buying houses when I could barely afford dentist appointments.
Did you feel that tension between the front and back of house?
It was more of a vague envy at that time, because there was no alternative to the system. You were a cook because you wanted to be a cook. The waiters would occasionally tell us, “But you’ve got pride in your craft!” [Laughs.] That was the part that rankled me, because there are a lot of servers who have taken pride in their craft, too. But I definitely felt the disparity.