The New York Times ran an op-ed piece this week by restaurant survey czars Tim and Nina Zagat, about the flush of restaurant industry class-action lawsuits in New York. The plaintiffs are frequently servers fighting back the tradition of restaurant owners "routinely cheating their workers by confiscating waiters' and busboys' tips to share with managers and other ineligible employees."
One of the big names mentioned in the opinion piece was Lidia Bastianich, the owner of several restaurants in New York and, of course, Lidia's Kansas City. When that operation first opened in the Crossroads, it imported many policies from the New York restaurants, including tip-pooling. I knew that wouldn't last. It didn't.
I'm not opposed to servers working as a team, but as I wrote in Fat City last year, I've always been a critic of tip-pooling, which permits even lousy servers -- and yes, there are a few of them out there -- to share in the fortunes of excellent, hardworking waiters and waitresses.
Two months ago, 27 servers from New York City's Del Posto Restaurant filed a lawsuit against the restaurant's owners -- chefs Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich and her son Joseph -- over tip-pooling, claiming it violated state labor laws. The servers claim that at Del Posto, servers received gratuities on a "point system."
CBS News reported that captains, "the highest rung on the waitstaff ladder, were allotted six points. Bartenders came in next with five points, 'front waiters' and food 'expeditors' got four and other staffers received smaller amounts."
Most servers I know can relate horrors stories in the requirements for tipping out -- or collecting tips -- at different restaurants. At one of the last restaurants that employed me as a server, the waiters were required to pay out 30 percent of their tips. Ten percent each to the bartender and busboys -- a traditional tip-out -- and another 10 percent to the dishwasher. In this case, the dishwasher wasn't paid a dime by the owner -- he survived completely on tips. That restaurant, unsurprisingly, is no longer in business.
(Image via Flickr: rick)