Joe’s Crab Shack chain tries no-tipping

joes crab shack crab legs

In what may be the first significant trial of a no-tipping policy by a full-service chain, Joe’s Crab Shack has switched the servers at 18 units to a set wage and alerted customers they no longer are expected to tip.

Servers will be paid a wage starting at $14 an hour, though the exact amount will vary from server to server on the basis of their past performance, according to the chain’s parent company, Ignite Restaurant Group.

The money to pay the waiters and waitresses is being generated by a price increase of 12 percent to 15 percent, Ignite CEO Ray Blanchette told investors late last week.

He revealed that the test began in August but was still being rolled into some restaurants as recently as last Tuesday.

Ignite expects the switch to a wage to reduce server turnover. A $14 hourly wage sounds much better than $2.13, which is the wage they’d get, sans tips, at competing restaurants, noted Blanchette. It’s also a yellow light to servers who know they’ll likely start with the least-lucrative shifts if they move to another restaurant.

He also noted a wage model solves some service problems for Joe’s. Waiters and waitresses usually balk at having someone help them with a big table because then they have to split the tip. Joe’s, which has a number of large parties, won’t have to deal with that at the 18 test cites, said Blanchette.

He added that customers who tip generously may end up spending less for a meal than they previously did, since the price increases levied at the test store are less than 20 percent.

Blanchette said the test will likely run through the rest of the year, and there are no plans as yet to begin a similar trial in Ignite’s other restaurant holding, the Brick House sports-bar concept.

A number of high-profile independent restaurants have recently decided to replace tipping within their restaurants with a set wage for servers. Joe’s appears to be the first chain to try the switch.

“We’re really leading in our industry with regards to national brand going out and testing this thing in a meaningful way,” said Blanchette. “So we want to be somewhat cautious.”

Today's top stories

1
First impressions count. And for many of your potential customers, especially millennials, those initial impressions of your operation will be formed via a glimpse at your website. So, how can you...
2
For several years, trend forecasters have been predicting that Native American would emerge as the next hot cuisine . But it’s taken a while for the supply chain and dining public to get the message...
3
Unable to find a buyer, the parent company of the Taco Cabana and Pollo Tropical quick-service chains has appointed a new CEO, fine-dining veteran Rich Stockinger, and revised its board in a renewed...
4
McDonald’s is cutting drink prices in its latest bid for bargain-hunting customers. The chain plans to offer $1 sodas and $2 McCafe specialty drinks for a limited time beginning in April. The deals...
5
A delay in mailing federal income tax refunds has put a crimp in consumers’ restaurant spending, adding to a traffic downturn from bad weather in many areas of the country, chain executives told...
6
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has called on the city to adopt a 2-cent-an-ounce tax on sugared soft drinks as a way of simultaneously discouraging consumption and raising money for education. The surcharge...
7
Last-minute shift changes would require restaurants to pay affected employees for at least four hours, whether the time was worked or not, under bills likely to be heard next week in the Oregon...
8
Starbucks is pulling the plug on another of its secondary restaurant concepts, this time the Evolution Fresh cold-pressed juice chain. The coffee giant intends to shut the two remaining Evolution...
9
One thing I’ve loved about writing this column over the past seven (!) years is that by using real reader-submitted questions, I am always learning new things, due to the complexity of running a...
10
Chipotle has finished rolling out its new Smarter Pick Up Times platform to all of its locations that offer digital ordering. Through Smarter Pick Up Times, the chain says it’s able to monitor its...