No tipping at new addition to Edmonton's dining scene

Customers of a new Edmonton restaurant won’t have to tip for good service, and the servers won’t have to rely on tips to supplement their incomes, says the owner. The soon-to-open Cafe Linnea, at 10932 119th St., will have a no-tipping policy, co-owner Garner Beggs told CBC’s Edmonton AM radio program on Thursday.

Tipping is 'a system that's easily abused,' says Cafe Linnea co-owner Garner Beggs

Garner Begg, second from left, says staff at new Edmonton restaurant Café​ Linnea won't work for tips. (Supplied/Facebook)

Customers of a new Edmonton restaurant will get good service and won't have to tip for it, says a co-owner of the business.

And servers will be paid well enough they won't need gratuities, says Garner Beggs.

The soon-to-open Cafe Linnea, at 10932 119th St., will open with a no-tipping policy as a "total experiment," Beggs told CBC's Edmonton AM radio program on Thursday.

"We decided that we were going to try to pay our staff good wages and make that work with the cost of their labour directly, clearly, reflected in the price of the food," Beggs said.

"Everybody can decide whether they want to pay that price up front instead of having any sort of a back-end hidden charge or surtax or whatever you want to call a tip."

A 'simple' idea, borrowed from Japan

Beggs and his business partner Giselle Courteau — they also own Duchess Bakery — lived for several years in Japan, where tipping is not part of the dining-out culture.

"It's so simple, it's so easy — it's really nice," Beggs said. "And coming back, I found tipping as an institution to me doesn't make a lot of sense. There's a lot of issues that I have with it."

Unregulated and uncontrolled, tipping is "a system that's easily abused," Beggs said.

In some eateries, servers keep their own tips; in others they pool and then share the gratuities.

Some restaurants even have policies that require servers to share their tips with managers, an arrangement Beggs said is "ludicrous."

He said tipping can be divisive when front-line staffers earn tips but kitchen employees don't. Servers can also feel the system isn't fair when their tips depend on "whether you get the good table or the bad table."

Employees 'excited' about experiment

Beggs said Cafe Linnea's staff is on board for the experiment, although there were some raised eyebrows during job interviews. Servers will earn wages "well above" the minimum wage  — "in the high teens, low 20s," he said.

"We're hoping to develop a highly professional, very motivated team that works as one," he said.

"The staff that we've got together there are very excited about the prospect. Some of them are veteran servers, and the idea of going into a workplace where essentially you're not having to kowtow to the customer in a way to sort of guarantee that you're going to get that tip … I think it's refreshing to them."

He expects the idea will spark interesting conversations. "Anything that opens up dialogue and discussion between the servers and the customers, and even the owners as well, is a great thing."

No tip, no good service?

Edmonton AM host Mark Connolly asked Beggs about the notion that doing away with tipping might make some people think they wouldn't get good service. Beggs answered with questions of his own.

"At the end of the day, do you tip your plumber to make sure that they're going to put your toilet in properly? Or your dentist, or any other professional?

"We're looking for, and we've hired, people that take an incredible amount of pride in their work, and because of that, you don't need to tip to guarantee that you're going to get good service.

"They're going to give you the best service they can possibly give you, or they're not going to be working for us."

An opening date for the restaurant has not been set.