We've made a small change to our pricing structure in order to benefit our kitchen staff, and here is why.
Vinaigrette is a restaurant that offers “food for thriving,” and we have prided ourselves on being a place where our staff thrived too. But restaurant work is labor intensive and challenging. People think of kitchen work as manual labor, and it is, but it’s also incredibly mentally challenging. It requires the focus and embodied thinking of an athlete, moving and problem solving under pressure, with grace and economy of motion.
During the pandemic, many of you know we temporarily eliminated tipping. We did this because we wanted to ensure our staff would be compensated for their work during a difficult and risky time for restaurants, when our occupancy was limited by law. We also wanted to correct what has always been an unfortunate and endemic wage gap between the front and back of house. The disparity exists in every restaurant in America, in large part because cooks and dishwashers are historically non-tipped employees and do not benefit from the gratuities our guests so generously add to their final check.
Gratuities have their problems, but when we eliminated tips we came to appreciate how much they are baked into the bread of restaurants and that they have their place. Eliminating them just didn’t work. They are a direct relationship between customer and staff, and they allow staff to benefit directly when the restaurant is busy. They incentivize certain things that are good for everyone, whereas wage compensation sometimes doesn’t.
But we still have to deal with the wage gap between front and back, and we want our kitchen crew to be rewarded, and to share in the gains of the restaurants, directly.
100% of the Kitchen Appreciation Fee added on every ticket will be distributed among our cooks and dishwashers. Your additional contribution which goes to them directly is a crucial step in making a change to our industry.
2% Kitchen Appreciation Fee
Why we believe it makes for a healthier restaurant:
- It acknowledges the fact that the restaurant is a team, and every member of the team is deserving of just compensation.
- It retains employees which allows for an investment in them, as well as food quality and sustainability.
- It directly rewards the back of house staff for the success of the restaurant.
- It encourages constant improvement in the quality and consistency of food.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why don’t we pay our BOH a living wage?
We do! The KAF is not meant to subsidize an underpaid workstaff! Our staff makes very competitive wages – everyone in our kitchen makes at minimum $15/hour and many are at $20 or more. It is meant to reward them in addition to their competitive base wages.
Even before 2020, restaurant wages had been increasing more than wages in other industries. But as costs of living creep up and up, we want to be able to attract and retain the best talent possible, reward them for their dedication and hard work, and provide them a good living.
Why should guests subsidize our labor costs?
Guests already pay for labor – that is how businesses that sell made things work. We charge a tiny markup over the money we spend in raw products, labor, and expenses required to make it. But the KAF functions like a direct stream of compensation, rather than one that must filter through the entire, and expensive, machine of the restaurant. Increasing menu prices by a similar amount would not have the same effect.
By giving the kitchen team a percentage of sales, it adds value across all facets of the restaurant, creates a better guest experience, incentivizes kitchen staff, and allows for the type of training that has become very hard to invest in otherwise.
What about an option to leave a tip for the BOH staff?
There are strict and to be honest not exactly fair laws around tipping in every state. This allows us to compensate both servers and kitchen crew in accordance with local laws in a way that best benefits staff and the restaurant.
But your prices have gone up so much, aren’t you gauging customers? Why should we have to pay this on top of high prices?
We have increased our prices but nowhere near in keeping up with how much more expensive everything has gotten in the last two years.
Here’s how things went down in our world:
- Most restaurants – including us – were undercharging before the pandemic, subsidizing costs that had been steadily increasing by being busy and taking a hit on profitability.
- Then the pandemic came and made it impossible for us to “host” increasing costs with being busy, because it was illegal to be busy, or even at full occupancy. We increased prices for this, and for increased staff wages because we went, for a time, “tipless.”
- AND then all our costs increased tremendously with inflation, a drum-tight labor market, and supply chain issues.
- Many ingredients almost DOUBLED in prices. An eight-pound container of Diver Scallops costs almost $300. The reality is, good ingredients are expensive, and the labor used to create good food is also expensive.
- When we went back to tips, we lowered some prices, but many of them we had not increased post-inflation.
- Our current prices reflect what we have to charge to be a viable business. When Vinaigrette opened, most of our menu items were around $10, but that was FIFTEEN YEARS AGO. Now, most menu items are between 15 and 20 dollars – this is still the low end for the quality of food we offer. We hustle more and work harder in order to offer delicious scratchmade food at our price points!
THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT!