Tips don’t equate to a living wage – The Daily Utah Chronicle

My experience is not unique. Ask any waiter in Utah who earns tip wages: our pay is unstable and not guaranteed. No matter how hard we work or how well we treat customers, we have to rely on the generosity of others to live. Unfortunately, Utah law allow for employers to pay workers who earn tips less than the minimum wage. But no one’s job should depend on tips, because tips are not a living wage. They never have been and probably never will be.

The Realities of Tipped Wages

Working as a waiter is incredibly stressful, especially during college. I did it because I loved the restaurant I worked in. It’s heartbreaking when people ridicule me for choosing to do a tip-based job. How can you demand a service and then not pay for it? After all, people don’t have to tip a doctor or a policeman for their services. We shouldn’t cut people’s wages to do their job in the first place.

Tipping habits today to differ pre-pandemic tips. Today, people tip lower and less frequently. Following steep people, which impacts server revenue. Average Utah server wins $10 per hour, which is not enough to meet the needs of an adult living alone. For this reason, I stayed at home and lived with my parents. I just couldn’t Support myself on a tip salary.

Non-viable solutions

Possible solutions to alleviate the wage difficulties faced by servers include raising the minimum wage or requiring people to tip with self-gratuity. But unfortunately, these solutions are not enough to end the server payment problems.

Let’s say the minimum wage increased to $15 in the state, an increase of $7.75 from the current minimum wage. Adding $7.75 to $2.13 will result in a peak pay of $9.88. Or, if we mirror the current proportionality of tip wages to the minimum wage, the new tip wage would be $4.41, or 29.4% of the minimum. A new peak salary of $4.41 is laughable and $9.88 still isn’t enough, especially considering the cost of living.

With automatic gratuity, restaurants could impose a “service fee” on customers to secure server revenue. However, this could force customers to pay for substandard service that they either don’t want to pay for or can’t afford. Companies are also moving away from automatic rewards because they are unfavorable for tax purposes and include additional work to comply with tax and labor laws. Service charges could also irritate customers who don’t read the fine print or know the fees, which could lead to a loss of customers for a business.

The right thing to do

Instead, catering employers should pay servers a living wage so that tips are not their primary source of income. If restaurant owners can keep a business going and pocket the profits, they should pay all of their workers a living wage.

Currently, restaurants in Utah have struggle to stay afloat, even as COVID-19 cases plateau and people dine out more. Despite stable restaurant revenues, waiter compensation has been significantly reduced. For this reason, many restaurants are understaffed and are scrambling to hire new employees while maintaining their current staff – many of whom are overworked and underpaid. Quality service has also taken a hit, including restaurant hours, menu availability, and wait times for food.

Restaurant owners must pay their employees a living wage, as more and more workers recognize their value and refuse to be exploited.

If the average Utah server only brings home $400 per week after working 40 hours and not being able to support themselves, they are clearly not paid enough. Many servers in Utah are faced with this grim reality as restaurants continue to exploit servers on a tipped salary. Raising the tipping wage to a living wage is the only way to end the waiters’ agony of supporting themselves. Restaurant workers have suffered enough and the change that needs to happen starts with the restaurants themselves.

Michael A. Bynum