SPOKANE, Wash - Tipping is widely regarded as a "thank you" from customers to their service staff. In recent years, more and more local restaurants have been tipping out the kitchen staff, promoting a better environment within each dining establishment.
Up until last month however, servers and cooks across the country were in danger of losing at least a portion of their gratuities.
"It's how I pay my bills, said Saranac Public House server Javi Sparks. "I make minimum wage."
It's no secret that a huge portion of a server's income comes from tips.
However, unless you're in the industry, you may not realize how many people lean on our tips for support. For a while, servers have been sharing their tips with cooks and dishwashers, who historically didn't get a piece of the tip pie.
"I can't hire guys way above minimum wage," explained Saranac Kitchen Manager Ethan King. "So part of the incentive to work here, against maybe a big company that can pay whatever wage- is that I can offer tips on top of that."
There are several different ways restaurants split their tips. Back of house Saranac employees get their piece on a per-hour basis, which comes from a minimum that servers hand over after each shift.
"We're all like a family here," said Sparks, who says he doesn't mind dishing out the cash. "Everybody hangs out after work. We all hang out."
This progressive practice of closing the pay gap was threatened last month when language in the $1.3 billion national spending bill originally allowed owners to pool tips, and skim whatever percentage they saw fit.
The final bill was amended to keep owners out of tip pools altogether, which many involved believe could've saved the industry.
"I could never see that happening at all," said Sparks. "Pretty much any place that you try doing that - that's a good way to just upset all your workers."
In the end, tip sharing - without owner interference - seems to go a long way in making a restaurant run.
"For the most part, at the end of the day here we all get along," said King. "There's no like front and back hatred or anything."
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