At These Portland Restaurants, All Employees Work Both Front and Back of House
Sunny Strader/The Oregonian
Two restaurants in Portland, Park Kitchen and The Bent Brick, are implementing a new, experimental service style: eliminating both tips and the distinction between back and front of house service, making a “one house” model.
Chef/restaurateur Scott Dolich (pictured) is the man behind the project. He plans to raise prices on his menu by 18% and eliminate tipping in order to give all his workers a fair wage. Employees will then be given 40 hour work weeks and health insurance, and will be trained to work at all food prep and floor stations. While the cooks on the line will stay there, all other employees will prep food as well as serve as hosts and servers.
This unification is an attempt to strike out with a new model for restaurants, one that Dolich takes very seriously, “This is a big change and we are not entering into it lightly,” Dolich told us. “I considered just eliminating tips, but ultimately that still keeps in place the uncomfortable ‘us vs. them’ disparities between the kitchen and server jobs. So far, the majority of our staff has been extremely supportive and eager to take the leap with us.”
An 18% increase in food cost may look more expensive on the menu, but in fact will probably end up saving diners money, putting the responsibility for the worker’s income on the restaurant, rather than the consumer. Perhaps this is the future of the restaurant model: Tipping is well known to be a purely American habit, with few other cultures in the world sharing it. For those worried about a downturn in service, Dolich reassures, “As for our guests, I hope they will see very little change in the warm, attentive service and wonderful food that we strive to give them every night.”
These changes will be implemented fully by the end of spring. If it is successful, we could be seeing other restaurants mimicking the model.