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The Public Option - Tip-Free (!) Brewpub on 16th St. and Rhode Island Ave. NE


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On 10/16/2012 at 2:54 PM, DonRocks said:

I would actively support any restaurant that moves to an all-inclusive pricing structure.

I also desperately want "being a server" to become a respected profession like it is in Europe (which would include servers learning their trade and becoming more professional).

And here it is - thank GOD, and may it become an industry-wide standard.

(Note: Kudos to The Swiss Bakery in Springfield for being a pioneer in the tip-free system.)

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I don't know how anyone can disagree with change that ensures a "living wage" for all hard working people in the restaurant biz. We should all want that. Earning a living wage if you work hard at anything productive should be American bedrock. A no-tipping world in which all servers (bussers and dishwashers too!) earn a living wage working in places with excellent and reasonably priced food and drink would be utopian. In full disclosure, my perspective on this is partly based on my own experience as a waiter before and during college.

As important and desirable a goal as this is, it's an inordinately difficult thing to achieve in this country for several reasons:

- Restaurants across the country continue to fail at a very high rate. If you are struggling to stay afloat and keep the doors open, other policies, beliefs and values tend to fall by the wayside.

- it's more than fair to challenge the idea that $15/hour even is a living wage. That's $31K/year if you assume 52 40-hour weeks. Particularly fair to challenge the idea in the larger, high-cost coastal cities including DC.

- The best servers in any city, employed by the highest-priced restaurants and bars serving generally affluent clientele, earn significantly more than $15/hour. It's tough enough to retain key staff in this industry as it is. Even more true if everyone is chasing the same goal of working toward the much more rewarding job at R24, Fiola, Range, Rose's, The Inn, or Marcels. Or, if your $15/hour staff are planning to head to graduate school or a different industry as soon as possible.

- Macroeconomic, governmental and demographic realities aren't as cooperative as they are in western europe, Japan and other nations.

Mark Furstenberg (BreadFurst) knows a little bit about the challenges of small business in the food industry. And, at his wonderful new venture, not even a year old, this is something he is struggling with mightily. And he has the best baguette in town bar none! His heart is in the same place as the Public Option entrepreneur but Mark's brain is filled with decades of experience, struggles and the realities of staying in the black.

http://www.donrockwell.com/index.php?/topic/46254-mark-furstenberg-on-tipping/

The Public Option's goal and values here are wonderful and iadmirable. It's just a very complicated and vexing challenge much bigger than any single restaurant or even collection of restaurants.

Remember the equally admirable and ambitious "Cause PhilanthroPub" in Shaw? Not sure there was even a thread for it here on dr.com. Sadly, they didn't make it.

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/youngandhungry/2012/11/01/charity-case-can-a-restaurant-that-gives-all-its-profits-away-succeed-in-d-c/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/unable-to-attract-regulars-dc-philanthropub-closes-after-14-months/2014/01/05/db8c95b2-73c9-11e3-9389-09ef9944065e_story.html

All said, I'll be thrilled if Public Option is a raging success. I'll definitely be going to try it. And I'll be cheering for their success with every sip and every bite. We clearly need change. Hopefully this will be an example others can then emulate.

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I don't know how anyone can disagree with change that ensures a "living wage" for all hard working people in the restaurant biz. We should all want that. Earning a living wage if you work hard at anything productive should be American bedrock. A no-tipping world in which all servers (bussers and dishwashers too!) earn a living wage working in places with excellent and reasonably priced food and drink would be utopian. In full disclosure, my perspective on this is partly based on my own experience as a waiter before and during college.

All said, I'll be thrilled if Public Option is a raging success. I'll definitely be going to try it. And I'll be cheering for their success with every sip and every bite. We clearly need change. Hopefully this will be an example others can then emulate.

I can give you my informed (but not necessarily correct) opinion ... it might not be the servers who want this system, and indeed, it may end up being them who fight against it the hardest.

Some $80,000 salaries are going to recalibrate to $40,000 (both numbers pulled out of the air), and that's not going to go over too well.

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I can give you my informed (but not necessarily correct) opinion ... it might not be the servers who want this system, and indeed, it may end up being them who fight against it the hardest.

Some $80,000 salaries are going to recalibrate to $40,000 (both numbers pulled out of the air), and that's not going to go over too well.

Yep. I believe it.  Not so inconsistent with some of the concerns I have about the concept.  Serious servers who hustle and work to develop requisite skills can always do better than $15/hour.  Even more true for those who see it as a career and profession versus something to do for a summer.

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The Public Option, 1601 Rhode Island Ave, NE, DC, has opened for drinks according to PoPville, and no food yet.  Their website says:

Although our kitchen will not be open for approximately a month, we are working on a menu of locally sourced pub fare including bratwurst sandwiches, flat breads and other tasty fare.

We are in discussion with some up and coming chefs whose creations we hope to feature occasionally as specials.  And as we get beyond our initial phase, we hope to attract some of the talented brewers in the area so that we can feature their work.

Currently only open Fri, Sat, and Sun.  Their website has a discussion about their tipping policy here.

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tl;dr on the tipping policy.  Actually, not really.  It seems absurd to have any tip money donated somewhere when the (at least starting) salary is 30K.  That is barely living wage in the DC Metro area.  Those additional funds should go to the employees.  Unless there is some sort of advancement (relatively quickly) to a salary of about 60-80K, those tips should go directly into the servers' pockets.  How many service employees are going to hang around long enough to advance past 30K?

(p.s., good on them to at least start people at 30K)

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