Tip the Kitchen aims to close the wage gap in the restaurant industry

CHARLOTTE, NC — A restaurant group is looking to close the wage gap between service and support staff.

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Tip the Kitchen aims to close the wage gap in the restaurant industry

The Fifth Street Group has raised more than $1 million for its employees who work from the back of the house

Owners say they hope it changes the hospitality industry

The Fifth Street Group, which has restaurants in Charlotte, Charleston and Nashville, now includes an additional tip line on its checks.

People can now tip those who work in the kitchen, such as line cooks, prep cooks, pastry chefs and more.

Since they launched this initiative in April 2021, their guests have donated over $550,000.

The restaurant group matched that number to bring it to a total of $1 million raised.

This number keeps growing as it is an ongoing effort.

Partner and Chef Jamie Lynch says this is the future of the hospitality industry.

“We believe that through this initiative, in partnership with our customers, it will attract better employees and inspire them to consider hospitality as a viable career choice,” Lynch said. “So some of our line cooks and prep cooks make close to $45,000 to $50,000 a year.”

The restaurant group offers gratuities of up to $500 per day per restaurant.

So how exactly does it work?

Let’s say one of their locations brings in $2,000 in tips for the day to those working in the back of the house. They then match $500, bringing the total to $2,500 for the day. This is then distributed equally among all members of the kitchen staff.

The minimum starting wage for their kitchen staff is $15 per hour. So that, plus tips, allows employees to take home extra money that they wouldn’t otherwise have.

One such employee is Rachel McMillion, pastry chef at La Belle Helene in Uptown Charlotte.

She started working in the restaurant industry in 2018 and says she had to work 2-3 jobs to make ends meet.

Now she doesn’t have to.

“It helps me bridge that wage gap to help support my family,” she said.

Lynch says that so far they have seen a decrease in staff turnover.

He adds that these tips are separate from the tips people leave for servers.

And to prevent their serving staff from getting a smaller tip, they’ve implemented what they call a “stop gap.”

“So let’s say a guest leaves a 15% tip for the waiter and $10 for the back of the house. We’ll match that $10 on that check, so it’s $20 for the back,” he said. “And then we’ll increase the percentage of that check for the server to 21%, whatever that number is, so they win 21% on that table.”

He says they could pay their office staff more per hour, but then they would have to increase their costs on their menus.

Lynch said they don’t want to charge their customers so they can’t pay for their restaurant.

By allowing people to tip the kitchen, they can keep the menu prices the same.


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Cecil N. Messick