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Expect Higher Prices, But Zero Tips at Oakland Restaurants

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Camino and Duende are getting ahead of a minimum-wage hike by raising menu prices.

Oakland's Duende
Oakland's Duende
Blair Sneddon

Followers of the ongoing shifts in tipping in the Bay Area will recall the coalition of five restaurants (Bar Agricole, Trou Normand, Comal, Duende, and Caminothat decided to take advance action on SF and Oakland's minimum-wage increases by implementing a 20% service charge and dropping tips altogether. But as it turns out, Oakland's new Measure FF, which increases the city's minimum wage to $12.25 per hour as of March 2nd, has some quirks in its writing that could make that effort more difficult for Camino and Duende—forcing them to raise prices instead.

Measure FF states that it would "require that hospitality employers in Oakland who collect service charges from customers pay those service charges to employees who provide the service." Bussers, food runners, and cooks could all potentially not count in the category of "employees who provide the service," leaving restaurant owners unsure how far they can go with dividing up the service charges to even out disparities between front-of-house and back-of-house pay.

Instead of challenging the new law in the courts, Camino has decided to simply skip the whole idea of tipping or service charges, opting to simply raise menu prices and include service. Camino co-owner Allison Hopelain told Inside Scoop that Camino's prices will go up 20 to 25 percent, allowing them to pay entry-level employees $16-$25 per hour. The menu will definitely look spendier than average, but there won't be a tip line on the receipt. Meanwhile, Duende is planning on moving towards that goal more gradually, though owner Paul Canales says he's definitely in favor of it: "We love the idea of the longer-term sea change, where we eventually move the tip line away and toward a model that includes all costs, like every other business." It's the same policy Daniel Patterson plans to have in place at his new restaurant with Brett Cooper, Aster, when it opens in the Mission next year.

With newfangled service-included ticketing systems for restaurants like Lazy Bear and Coi, as well as the "hybrid model" used by Toast Kitchen + Bar, Bay Area restaurants will definitely continue to shake things up when it comes to paying staff, particularly as the deadline approaches for those wage increases to kick in. Don't expect this story to go away anytime soon.


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