Tipping – Op Ed

By: Tezra Bryant

 

I love New York City restaurants and have dedicated my career to becoming an industry professional. For the past two decades I’ve worked as a server at restaurants around the city and am currently employed at a great spot in the Bronx.

 

As a foodie, I know how important great food is, but from my hands-on experience as a server, I know that it’s the service that can make or break a good restaurant experience. That’s why after years of studying the art of service, and honing my craft, I launched my own small business to teach other restaurant industry pros the tricks of the trade, which I’ve refined over the years.  The more skills you have, more tips you’ll earn.  I’ve seen servers do amazing things with their earnings from waiting tables – from travel the world to purchasing a home. 

 

Today, those very tips and flexibility are being threatened if Governor Cuomo eliminates the restaurant industry tip credit. For those not familiar with restaurant lingo, the tip credit allows restaurants to pay servers like me a slightly lower minimum wage as long as the money I earn in tips equals at least the full amount. Under the system, I’ve always made a lot more than the minimum wage.

 

From all my years working and consulting with restaurants throughout the five boroughs I know that eliminating the tip credit is a bad idea. Many restaurants are already struggling financially, and they can’t absorb the increased labor costs of not having the tip credit. And restaurants can only increase menu prices so much, to offset the expense, before they price themselves out of the market and become unaffordable to the folks who live in the neighborhood.  

 

So, if restaurants lose the tip credit they may be forced to reduce workers’ hours or lay people off, which will compromise the quality of service. Some restaurants may even close. These are all bad outcome for hard working New Yorkers. Other restaurants may replace some workers with tableside tablets, which won’t offer the same great customer experience, where people are compelled to show their appreciation through tipping.  

 

For all of these reasons, I believe it’s misguided for organizations like the Restaurant Opportunities Centers, of which I was once aligned, and celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker and Hill Harper to use their status to pressure Governor Cuomo into eliminating the tip credit. If they think the tip credit makes certain workers more vulnerable to wage theft then they should advocate for stronger enforcement, not jeopardize a system that allows thousands of workers to earn between $20 -$25 an hour. They should also know that protecting tipped workers from customer harassment will come from implementing zero tolerance workplace policies and training, not by eliminating the tip credit. So, while they’re living fancy celebrity lifestyles, I urge them to stop threatening our livelihoods, and use their fame to support a more sensible cause.

Governor Cuomo please accept a tip from people like me who will be adversely impacted by eliminating the tip credit. There’s an old adage, “If it isn’t broke don’t fix it.”  The current tipping system is not broken and does not need to be fixed.

 

Tezra Bryant is a server at Charlies Bar & Kitchen and the Founder of Alacrity Associates, LLC.

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    • Kim Wynne

      Well said!