Zazie, one of San Francisco’s most popular brunch spots, is the latest Bay Area restaurant to eschew tips in favor of an all-inclusive menu, and though today is the first day, owner Jennifer Piallat says that so far, customers seem content with the change, despite a 20% increase in prices across the board.
"So far we haven’t had any complaints," Piallat says. "In fact, one customer said she expected sticker shock, but that the menu still looks reasonable."
Piallat decided to ditch the traditional tipping system — and the surcharges everyone in SF has grown used to — as a way to bring equality to the front and back of house and create a profit-sharing model. With the new system, all employees will get a raise; servers will see a three to seven percent increase and the back of the house will enjoy a solid 35% boost.
In addition, all employees receive a living wage ($15-20/hour), paid sick leave, fully funded health and dental insurance, paid maternity/paternity leave, and a 401(k) plan.
Piallat did a lot of math to ensure that the front of house wouldn’t lose money due to this transition. While she originally planned to give servers ten percent of their sales and back-of-house ten percent of the restaurant’s total sales divided among them per shift, Piallat had one waitress point out that would put her down about eight percent overall. So Piallat bumped the percentages up to 11 — despite only increasing the prices 20 percent.
"The only person losing money is me," Piallat laughs. "My accountant doesn’t like it, but I didn’t want to risk anyone being dissatisfied."
Of course, it’s the restaurant business, so someone’s bound to be unhappy. Piallat admits that while the overall reaction to the change has been positive, she did receive one email from a disgruntled customer.
"The woman said I was taking away her control," Piallat says. "She knew if her service was good, while I didn’t." The customer went on to explain that her policy was to never go to tip-free restaurants and was sad she would never be able to go to Zazie again. "The thing is," Piallat explains, "we’re not adding a 20% service charge. Servers are getting 11 percent. Plus, they don’t do the best they can to keep you happy because they’re worried you’re going to dock their tip. They want you happy so that you don’t call their manager and so that you don’t disturb their section. No one wants to deal with an angry customer."
Paillat does admit that even if people support the new all-inclusive menu, she wouldn’t be surprised if about 15 percent of customers now feel Zazie is too expensive. "Maybe they’re the kind of people who wouldn’t have tipped 20 percent in the first place," she says. "Or maybe they’re just not doing the math. But hey, if that means the brunch wait on the weekends goes down to 45 minutes instead of an hour and half, that’s okay with me." See Zazie's new menus, including the tip-free verbiage, right here.
— Daisy Barringer