The downtown Charleston restaurant Gaulart & Maliclet French Cafe, also known as Fast & French, has announced that it is a no-tipping restaurant and that it has made its menu prices all-inclusive.
Co-owner Lawrence Mitchell said employees of the cafe, at 98 Broad St., are no longer accepting tips — and he said they never expected them previously.
“People tip because it’s customary in the States, but they just leave change at the register or a couple dollars here and there on the table. Our system has never been to rely on those tips,” he said. “We’ve always paid our waitstaff a living, fair wage; regardless of whether it’s busy or it’s slow, they’re getting the same thing.”
Receipts given to credit card customers no longer have the option to leave a tip, and new signs by the register and on menus say the restaurant is a non-tipping establishment.
“Our whole system has always been a French style of service. ... Our tip policy now matches our service,” Mitchell said. “There was never any clue that you were supposed to tip anybody when you walked into this place.”
Many restaurants pay servers the federal minimum wage of $2.13 an hour plus tips, which must combine to at least $7.25 per hour. Mitchell said entry-level employees at the restaurant start off making $10 an hour, and they get raises as they move up the ranks. They also get annual raises and can receive quarterly bonuses.
“We offer insurance to people who are working full time,” he said. “We’re not your normal restaurant; we have never been that.”
Mitchell said he and co-owner Jennifer Bremer met with the cafe’s dozen employees in February to discuss changing their tip policy.
He said he told his workers, “If someone hands you a tip, you have a choice: You can either take it home with you, and you can do all the paperwork with that; you can file with the government, you can claim your tips. But if you don’t want to do that, we’ve got to come up with another system.”
He said the employees chose to pool any tips and donate them to a different charity every couple of months. Prior to the change, tips were pooled and distributed to employees based on their work, Mitchell said.
“There’s no longer a system implemented in the business to be able to deal with a tip. We can’t leave it on the table until the wind blows it away, so we have to do something with it,” he said.
The cafe also changed its menu prices in February, Mitchell said. Most dishes were rounded to the nearest dollar, so there are no more cups of gazpacho for $3.30 or baguettes for $9.50. Instead, a pizza croissant, for example, now costs a flat $12, and a large turkey salad costs $10 even. Those rounded prices are also all-inclusive, meaning they include city, state and hospitality taxes.
“When it says $13, it means $13,” Mitchell said.
The price of some dishes went up by slightly more than a dollar. Mitchell said the cost of imported cheese has become more expensive recently, so cheese fondue and other dishes that use large portions of cheese went up about $1.50 to reflect price increases in the cheese market.