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‘It’s the right thing to do’: Toronto restaurant scraps tipping

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As more workers in the restaurant industry return to work, one Toronto restaurant is taking the opportunity to make a big change by moving away from the tip system.

A Toronto restaurant has stopped accepting tips in a move the owner says is an effort to more fairly compensate staff.

Richmond Station, located at Yonge and Richmond Street in downtown Toronto, moved to what it calls a “hospitality included” model, meaning any gratuities for staff are already built into the price.

“Eliminating tips and moving to Hospitality Included is … the right thing to do,” Ryan Donovan, the restaurant’s owner, told Global News by email.

“We want our staff to have the same entitlements to the social safety net and their professional peers in other industries and the fall-out from the pandemic has made that abundantly clear.”

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Prices have been raised by an average of 18 per cent, Donovan explained, with all additional revenue directed to employee compensation.

“We will bear the cost of additional tax commitments as we distribute additional payroll dollars — our matching of (Canadian Pension Plan) and (Employment Insurance), our commitments for Vacation Pay and WSIB premiums,” he wrote.

Tracy Zhuo, who previously worked as a server at a different restaurant, said she is supportive of ending tipping as long as price increases are properly directed to staff.

“I’ve had my fair share of bad tips, et cetera, and so long as people get a living wage, I’m all for that,” she said.

Sean McCann said tipping doesn’t exist in his home country of Ireland.

“When I moved here, it was kind of unusual to have to adapt to the whole tipping kind of scenario,” he said.

Read more: Coronavirus: Ontario restaurants, bars now required to keep 30-day log of patrons

North America is widely considered a tipping culture. While there is a gradual shift toward hospitality-included prices, long-held tipping customs are a big hurdle to clear, James Rilett, vice-president of Central Ontario for industry group Restaurants Canada, told Global News.

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“It’s a cultural change,” he said.

“Some people have done it all their lives and they maybe think they get better service if they have a tipping model.”

Richmond Station is removing the tipping option from payment terminals, according to its website.

Donovan said the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on tip-dependant staff made it clear now was the time to act on the change that had been in the works since 2016.

“(At) this point, we have to rebuild our business model anyway, so we’ve elected to go all-in and adopt the practices we have long hoped to implement as a team — from labour standards to purchasing standards.”