Abrusci's Restaurant bans tipping, adds 20 percent service charge

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. - A restaurant in Wheat Ridge says it's instituting a no-tipping policy, but will add a 20 percent service charge to all customer bills to raise pay for staff and provide some benefits.

Abrusci’s Italian Restaurant has posted signs on its walls alerting that the change will start July 20.

"We were trying to help them, all of our staff, earn a livable wage," said Abrusci's owner Nancy Progar. "Then we started to see this trend across the country where a lot of restaurants are going to no tipping."

Under the new policy, servers will be paid a minimum of $20 per hour, up from $5.21, and work a 34-hour week. Pay for the average kitchen worker will rise from $11 to $14.50 an hour.

"What we are offering is paid holidays for all our full-time staff, paid vacation--they’ll earn up to two weeks paid vacation and paid sick days," Progar said. "That’s something hardly anyone in the restaurant business has ever had."

Workers will also be eligible for bonuses based on customer evaluations and restaurant profitability.

On the 7NEWS Facebook page, some were critical.

"I wouldn't go to a restaurant who automatically charges a 20% service charge. We always tip at least 20% but we do it voluntarily and it is based on good service!!," wrote Helen Price Pedersen, whose comment got nearly 600 likes.

Progar said she realizes the policy is hard to digest, but believes it will only improve the customer experience.

"Servers won't be trying to take as many tables as they can. They’ll actually deliver high quality, top-notch service to every table," she said. "We're overstaffing. So we’ll have plenty of staff with us. Customers will really benefit and I think it comes back to how happy the servers will be."

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