Service model creates varied wage scale. Blue Hill at Stone Barns alums Michael and Tara Gallina knew they’d need a nontraditional model to make their St. Louis restaurant a success, given its location in the heart of the city’s tech district. The year-old Vicia caters to high-tech workers during the day as a fast-casual operation with a pared-down menu. At night, it becomes an award-winning full-service restaurant.
There was just one problem: How would the Gallinas attract and retain top staff for both dayparts, which are largely different crews, when the lunchtime front-of-house workers wouldn’t earn big tips like their evening counterparts?
At Vicia, those daytime workers earn $10 an hour—more than 50% more than evening workers—plus a tip share, which amounts to an average of $17-$18 an hour total to compensate for their much lower tips. The Gallinas say they could’ve kept the fast-casual employees at a lower paygrade. But low wages typically don’t engender high-quality service, Tara Gallina says, and she hopes to woo customers to come back for dinner.
“We wanted to invest in that,” she says. Plus, Gallina says, as customers come for lunch and they see employees refilling their beverages and clearing tables, they’ve started tipping. While Vicia initially considered a no-tipping policy, Gallina admits that it would’ve cost too much. And now, customers are catching on to tipping for both dayparts.
The pay structure has evolved over time to get staff on board, says Gallina. At first, Vicia used a formula to calculate the servers’ tip share, assigning a point amount to staff at various positions, then dividing the total tip-out each night and distributing based on the points value. Based on server feedback, Gallina simplified the operation: The concept converted the structure to an equitable, even split for all servers, with a 1% tip-out for each support staff member.
“[Our Service model] has evolved over the last year. You start with one formula and see if that works.
It’s more of a conversation.”
—Tara Gallina, Vicia