Baton Rouge restaurant owners say a no-tip policy is a no-go

Baton Rouge restaurant owners say a no-tip policy is a no-go

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Baton Rouge restaurant owners said that, despite another national chain moving toward a no-tip policy, do not expect the same policy to be adopted in the Capital City.

National chain Joe's Crab Shack, which is owned by Ignite Restaurants, announced Wednesday that they would be experimenting with a no-tip policy at 18 of their locations nationwide. As part of the test, employees would see their wages rise from just over $2 per hour to $12-$14 per hour.

At the same time, menu prices would also rise 12 to 15 percent to compensate for the increased payout from the restaurant.

"I personally believe tipping is an antiquated model and you have seen most businesses in America migrate away from it over the last 50 to 100 years," said Ray Blanchette, CEO of Ignite Restaurants, in a statement.

"I'm shocked that it's coming on the national scale like it is with one of the national chains," said Jim Urdiales, owner of Mestizo restaurant in Baton Rouge.

He said he has no plans of introducing any such no-tip policy at his restaurant on South Acadian Thruway.

"To try to increase that labor cost on the front end side, I think would be more detrimental to a lot of independent restaurants," he said.

Urdiales is not alone. Several Baton Rouge restaurants owners said they are unsure by the new Crab Shack policy.

Urdiales listed several reasons, including the risk such a change could present to the quality of service.

"I'm not sold on the idea that just because a server's going to make $13, $14 an hour that they're going to give that level of service," he said.

He also said that if wagers were increased, he may have to reduce staffing during quieter, less-busy hours in order to balance spending. He said that creates a risk.

"If you've only got one person on the floor and you've got a walk-in group, you're putting yourself in a position where 'can that one server, at that rate, handle the level of service that's needed for a group like that?'" he said.

Individuals with previous experience in the service industry said it is unclear whether increasing the hourly wage would actually increase the overall pay take-away.

"From my experience, waiting in high school, I made way more making tips than I probably would have made if I were paid $12 or $13 an hour," said LSU graduate student Seth LeBlanc.

On the streets of Baton Rouge, the response to the announcement from Joe's Crab Shack was mixed.

"I wouldn't mind paying a little bit more knowing that I don't have to pay tip," Donna Neel said.

"You don't want to reward someone for bad service because it may not make them want to work as hard," said Trevione Ingram-Stone, an LSU student.

The Joe's Crab Shack location in Baton Rouge is not part of the 18-store experiment. The company said there is not a timeline for when all locations will adopt the policy or if that will happen at all.

Either way, Urdiales said whether through tips or increased menu items, "the customer is going to pay for it."

The locations currently experimenting with the policy include: Indianapolis, Ind.; Hobart, Ind.; Columbus, Ohio; Bellevue, Ky.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Auburn Hills, Mich.; Sterling Heights, Mich.; Omaha, Neb.; Fairview, Ill.; Peoria, Ill.; Schaumburg, Ill.; Robinson, Pa.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; St. Louis, Mo.; Independence, Mo.; Olathe, Kan.; West Jordan, Utah; and Salt Lake City, Utah.

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