When you sit down at a table at the newly opened Brand 158 restaurant in Glendale, the host politely asks if you’ve visited the restaurant before. But it’s not to give you a spiel on how the kitchen uses only organic ingredients, or how they consider themselves “farm to table.” Instead, she wants to talk money.
“We don’t accept tips,” said the host on a recent visit to the restaurant. “We’re paid a higher wage here."
Owner and first-time restaurateur Gabriel Frem wanted to discourage competition between his employees and create a steady working environment, where everyone could act as more of a team.
“We think that if we stabilize the lives of our employees, they can then focus on the customer,” said Frem. “If people came to work and didn’t know what they were going to make for the week, that tension would eventually translate to the customer.”
The no-tipping practice is common in Europe, but not so much in the U.S. There are, however, some restaurants in Los Angeles that have done away with tipping, including Trois Mec and Nozawa Bar. Some restaurants charge higher prices or include a service charge, but Frem says he does neither.
“You don’t have to make a lot of adjustments to your menu,” said Frem. “If you’re planning smartly, you’re letting people help you with certain things in the restaurant that would require a third party to come in and do.”
Frem plans to use his servers for multiple tasks if the restaurant is slow, instead of cutting them to go home early. Some he asks to help with social media accounts and others he plans to use to help with the restaurant’s planned catering service.
In addition to the no-tipping policy, you’re encouraged not to pay with cash. "It’s always fascinated me in a restaurant that someone, especially your bartender, is touching cash, then squeezing a lemon in your drink,” said Frem. “I wanted to eliminate that.”
Frem said he also has all of the tables wiped down with sanitizer and keeps his plates sealed in plastic after they are washed. They remain sealed until they are to be used.
“We accept credit cards,” said the host. “If you have to pay with cash, we need to get a manager.”
There are bins, specifically used for bills and coins, that are brought over to the table if cash is used. The bins are then taken to the manager to process.
Cash is “a risky commodity to store, to transport, and I don’t want my managers to go to the bank with a huge bag of cash or people to come into the restaurant with guns or an armored car,” said Frem. “For us, to sell pizza, salads and a rack of lamb, we don’t need to take cash.”
158 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale, (818) 305-2861, www.brand158.com.
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