Edmonton chef wants to end practice of house tipping

The overwhelming response spurred the Edmonton-based chef to create the Alberta Vanguard Association, a new Twitter account which will share experiences Albertans in the service industry have faced — including house tipping.

House tipping is becoming increasingly prevalent in Alberta, advocacy group says

House tipping has been a common practice for years, but Daniel Huber wants to put a stop to it. (Colin Hall/CBC)

An Edmonton chef says restaurants need to stop the common practice of house tipping to further line the pockets of owners.

Daniel Huber created the Alberta Vanguard Association, an advocacy group which will share experiences Albertans in the service industry have faced — including house tipping.

House tipping is where non-staff workers — like owners, for example — are given a share of the tips earned by servers. It's a practice that has existed as long as Huber can remember, but things have changed a bit over the past few years.

"When times are flush and the gravy train is rolling, people are less likely to bring these things up that affect a small portion of their income," Huber told CBC's Radio Active. "But as the recession hits, our economy is changing and things are kind of tightening up across the board from employment to workplace conditions."

He said it's gotten worse in Alberta in conjunction with the minimum wage increase over the past three years. As owners need to pay higher wages, some have started taking a percentage of tips to help offset the increase. Huber doesn't blame the Alberta NDP government for causing the increase in house tipping but said they could be doing a better job at preventing it.

"Considering they're a supposed pro-worker government, they're really dropping the ball," he said.

On Friday, NDP Labour minister Christina Gray reached out to Huber on Twitter asking to sit down and discuss the issues he raised, but Huber said he hasn't heard from the minister's office since.

Huber said he's cautiously optimistic about the potential of an upcoming meeting to express his concerns and his strategies to fix them.

Doing business properly

Huber said he started asking people in the service industry about their experiences on the job and the responses were overwhelming. Huber said many people are nervous to publicize their issues for fear of being blacklisted in the service industry.

Huber is also the community and culinary lead of Edmonton's chapter of Leftovers. (rescuefood.ca)

That's where he comes in.

"My reputation is kind of tied into my loud mouth so I don't mind bringing this stuff up," Huber said.

The new association also asks servers about their experiences around whether they were forced to wear heels or if they had seen any employment standards violations.

Huber said the advocacy group's goal is to ensure fair and lawful practices in the service industries.

"The reality is whether or not that makes it harder to do business, that shouldn't make it harder to do your business properly," he said.

"If your business model doesn't allow you the opportunity to employ people fairly and still make money and keep your doors open, maybe your business model is broken to begin with."