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Should salaries replace tips for bartenders?

Should salaries replace tips for bartenders?


Source: The Spirits Business

by Amy Hopkins

5th June, 2015


As the bartending profession becomes increasingly well-regarded, many argue that mixologists’ reliance on tips should be replaced by fixed salaries. We ask to bartenders to debate the issue.


Do you think bartenders’ tips should be exchanged for fixed salaries?


Tipping is an age-old custom in bars and restaurants around the world, supplementing what a number of people have called a insubstantial salary.


However, Pittsburgh’s Bar Marco grabbed headlines earlier this year when it revealed plans to ban tips for its workers in exchange for a US$35,000 salary with benefits.


Its employees signed contracts entitling them to paid holiday, health care, and 500 shares worth US$1 in the company.


Here, Bar Marco’s co-owner Robert Fry goes head to head with Kate Gerwin, general manager of HSL Hospitality in Corrales, New Mexico, to debate the issue.


I believe having your income based on tips rather than a set salary is part of what keeps service industry staff hospitable.


When you know your money is based on performance, well, you perform. There is nothing quite like amazing service – you remember it. As Maya Angelou once said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget the way you make them feel.”


A good bartender can make everyone’s night, and should be paid accordingly. If you’ve ever seen the best bartenders work a room, it’s an art form, and they deserve to be suitably compensated. As a bar owner, it is important to foster an environment that encourages the bartender to go above and beyond, and a tip income is one of the best ways.


Of course, some people are horrible tippers and fail to grasp that this is how we survive. Bartenders rely on tips regardless of the size of the establishment. Slow seasons are hard, and we all dread January and February when we are scraping to make ends meet.


But those at the top of their game create the money they make. I have seen bartenders turn a usually slow Monday night shift into one of the most profitable by creating an environment that encourages guests to come back time and time again.


If tips were swapped for a basic salary, of course we could survive but it would change the drive, the excitement and the way we work. There is nothing like the rush of a busy night and watching the tip jars rapidly fill up while the music is pumping and people are having fun. It puts us in the zone, makes us fight for more and in turn enables us to create a better experience for our guests. Additionally, from a business perspective it would force bartenders to raise the costs of food and drink.


Contrary to popular belief, the bar business is not a cash cow. Bar owners don’t just open their doors and make money hand over fist. It takes hard work, marketing, proper inventory and controls, careful pricing and more.