The Dec. 4 editorial calling on legislators to implement Question 4 without making changes attributes opposition to the minimum-wage hike referendum’s elimination of the tip credit to “histrionics on the part of some in the industry, including some waitstaff in high-end restaurants.” It also implies that voters thoroughly understood the implications of the referendum.

As a bartender (in a medium-end establishment), I do not begrudge anyone who receives a raise because of Question 4. However, my 20 years’ experience in the hospitality industry also convince me that eliminating the tip credit will not only harm service but also ultimately reduce revenue for both waitstaff and their employers.

Let’s consider an 80-seat restaurant, located anywhere in the state, open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., with an average of three tipped employees on duty (depending on seasonal shifts in volume common to most Maine businesses). In 2017, the increase in the minimum hourly wage ($3.75 to $5) will result in a $15,056 jump in its “front-of-house” payroll. By 2024, this figure balloons to $99,371. It must be emphasized that these dollar amounts do not represent the restaurant’s total payroll, but only the increase in payroll caused by eliminating the tip credit. And these inflated costs will apply to any restaurant, high- and low-end alike.

It is naïve and shortsighted to believe that such five- and six-figure increases can be absorbed by our restaurant with little or no effect. Layoffs and price increases have been discussed and the elimination of tipping has been considered and, in some places, implemented to forestall these negative consequences.

While some (but thankfully not all) laypeople consider tipping to be nothing more than a gratuitous handout, a less parochial view deems a gratuity as no different than a sales commission. This commission is not intended to be a patronizing anachronism, but rather as incentive for better service and (equally importantly) higher revenue for both restaurant and waitstaff.

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