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Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse wants you to tip the kitchen staff

Frustrated that you haven’t been able to tip the kitchen staff at restaurants in addition to tipping your waiter? Willie Degel is betting the answer is yes. The owner of Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse — a former Food Network star who appeared in the reality show “Restaurant Stakeout” – says he’s in talks with his point-of-sale software provider to add a new line item on his restaurants’ bills that gives the option to leave a small tip of about 5% for dishwashers and line cooks. “I know a lot of my customers would love to give a gratuity to my kitchen,” Degel told On the Money, adding that he plans to roll the option out at all six of his eateries, which include two in New York and four in Georgia. “The public is more receptive to this than ever before because they understand how important these workers are,” adds Degel, who reckons the tip could add another $50 to each shift and help him reduce turnover. “It’s harder to hire kitchen staff than servers right now.” Degel, who landed on the hot seat in 2018 for complaining about the rising minimum wage in New York, admits that some might ask why he simply doesn’t pay his kitchen staff more. “It’s about time the back of the house is rewarded for something by the public,” Degel said. “How much can I raise my prices before people don’t come in anymore?” Tipping kitchen staff is an idea that several other restaurant groups have talked about but ultimately have decided against, according to Carolyn Richmond, chair of the hospitality practice at Fox Rothschild LLP. Aside from customers having to worry about a big tab that just got bigger, they fear diners will split the tip between the server and the kitchen, spurring a server revolt, Richmond said. “It’s complicated, although there is a big disparity in wages between the front of the house and the back of the house that’s problematic,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. Legally, there is nothing keeping restaurateurs from adding a second tip, provided it’s the diner’s choice to do so, according to Richmond. When restaurants used to run credit cards on carbon copy imprinter machines, some bills included lines for a gratuity for the maitre’d or captain, she noted. Degel says he’s talked to his 350-person staff about his plan and that he’ll “make sure that the [kitchen and servers] are united,” on the issue. What’s more, he said he plans to reward servers with more incentives to sell more. “I’m more concerned about the lack of tips for the front-of-the-house staff due to the drastic dip in business,” Jimmy Haber, who owns BLT Steak and BLT Prime among other restaurants, told On the Money.

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