Ivar's restaurants raise wages, go tipless

by: Natasha Chen Updated:

Photo: Ivar's Restaurants Facebook

Ivar’s has announced its sit-down restaurant employees will be making $15 an hour, ahead of Seattle’s phased-in minimum wage schedule set to begin Wednesday.

The two restaurants will also see an increase in prices and the elimination of tips.

Ivar’s Salmon House on South Lake Union, and Ivar’s Acres of Clams, when it reopens in July, will both have a 21 percent increase in menu prices. The increase will cover 17 percent for tips and 4 percent for the increase in labor costs. Guests will not see a tip line on the receipt.

At Ivar’s walk-up counters, employees will begin making $11 an hour, in accordance with the Seattle minimum wage law. Locations outside of Seattle will see the same increase. Menu prices there will increase 4 percent to cover labor costs.

The president of Ivar’s, Bob Donegan, said the front of the house staff generally makes about $60,000 a year when factoring in tips, while the back of the house makes around $30,000.

“This will allow us to equalize that and bring the people in the back of the house much higher than they’ve been in the past,” Donegan said.

In sharing the built-in 17 percent tip among all staff, servers will take 8 percent of that. Donegan said they will be taking a smaller percentage of the tip on a larger bill, while being paid more per hour.

He said the result should be that servers make the same or more than they did before.

If they don’t, or if customers give very negative feedback, Donegan said they can fix it.

Still, “we’re expecting it to go well. We don’t plan for failure,” he said.

Marc Pacampara, who has been to Salmon House to eat, said he likes the pricing of the food.

When told about the increase, Pacampara said, “I wouldn’t mind it so much. If tipping is already included as is, then – if that’s going back to the employees, then I’m alright with that.”

Former and current servers at other restaurants told KIRO 7 they were a bit a skeptical.

“I’d like to go into Ivar’s to see how it is, to see if maybe the servers treat their customers different, or who maybe aren’t as attentive because they know they’re going to get their set wage,” said Kristin Lamb, who has served in restaurants before.

Chris Linares, a server at Green Lake Bar and Grill, said he makes on average an 18- to 20 percent tip when he does a good job.

“I feel I wouldn’t have any chance to show that I went above and I did more, exceeded expectations to deserve more of a tip,” Linares said.

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