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'A great change': Saugatuck restaurants getting rid of tipping

"When guests come in, they do not have to be concerned with tipping," Lindsay Paylietner said. "We have increased prices in order to allocate those wages."

SAUGATUCK, Mich. — Tipping waiters and waitresses has become a part of our everyday culture, but a restaurant in Saugatuck is mixing all of that that all up by doing away with tipping altogether.

GROW Café + Bistro and the TRAP are shaking up the food and hospitality industry.

The two restaurants operate out of the same building and have separate hours, entrances, and dining rooms, but share a kitchen and staff. 

"We've taken the idea of guest tipping out of the equation," said Lindsay Paylietner, Owner and Chef of both restaurants. 

'GROW' and 'the TRAP' have implemented what they call a "gratuity-free" model. 

"So, essentially, now when guests come in, they do not have to be concerned with tipping," Paylietner said. "We have increased prices in order to allocate those wages across the board."

She said all of their employees now make between 15 and 30 dollars an hour.

"Those are based on positions, work experience level, and which shifts they work," she added, "because busier shifts will be a higher wage." 

The restaurants' other owner and Front House Manager, Alec Paylietner said that the idea of demonetizing hospitality is very important to them. 

"We want to separate the idea of money from taking care of our guests," he said, "because taking care of our guests is what we do."

Alec said that their "gratuity-free" model also pays front and back of house employees a higher hourly wage that is more equitable, which is especially important in a seasonal resort town like Saugatuck. 

"We want to make sure that everyone is compensated for their time," Alec said, "regardless of what's happening within the four walls as far as the business goes."

"So we are simply raising the prices about the same amount as a proper gratuity, and then being able to disperse those funds between back of house and front of house equally," he explained, "and everyone has their set salary or their set wage so that those days you have money you can count on for each day, each week. So it's just a better way to live and a better way to earn."

He and Lindsay explained that they want to make sure everyone is equally taken care of during their busy times, including the back-of-house staff, which don't always see extended compensation when they're super busy. 

"We really want everybody to have teamwork," Lindsay added. "We want people to get along, and we want everyone to feel as though they're being paid and treated fairly."

Alec explained that they looked at a couple of different models and ways to make their priorities happen. 

"We've seen a model where people add a fee or force gratuity at the end of a meal," he said. "Well, that complicates things because then people feel like they're being forced to tip a certain percentage."

He said they've also seen a model where people are compensated based on sales.

"Well, that complicates things as well, especially again, in a resort town where you're not sure a day like, you know, a Friday a rainy snowy Friday in April is way different than is Saturday and in the middle of July," he said.

But both Lindsay and Alec said they know that guests will have questions about the new system.

"When guests ask what to do, or say they don't feel comfortable not tipping, we just say thank you for partnering with us in our mission," Alec explained, "because that's what it is. It's a partnership with our guests to change the way everyone looks at gratuity, tipping and looks at the restaurant dining experience altogether."

And both said while there will likely need to be some tweaks or updates to the system, they're excited to see how it works out. 

"I think it's going to be a great change," said Lindsay, "and I think that while it's not common, I think we're gonna see more and more of this as as the next few years rollout."

"We want the best for for our industry, because it is a challenging one," Alec added, "and we want to make sure that people in our industry, want to stay in it."

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