As of February 1, 2018, to support the rising minimum wage and cost of living in our community, we will be adding a 3% surcharge to all checks. Please take a moment to read our thoughts and how we arrived at this difficult decision. We hope you’ll understand that our motives are sincere and our course of action is necessary for a sustainable and fair working environment for all. We appreciate your trust and understanding and will continue to put our heart and soul into providing you delicious food, exceptional service and genuine hospitality.
Dining here isn’t cheap, why don’t you just pay your employees more money?
While dining at Trokay is not cheap, it might surprise you to know that successful restaurants only make 4 to 7 cents of each sales dollar. It might also surprise you to find out that the only employees who make minimum wage are the servers, so the yearly increases in minimum wage only affect tipped employees and prevent us from providing wage increases to non-tipped employees. Meanwhile, there is as much as a 300% disparity between tipped and non-tipped employees. In short, the mandated increases in minimum wage directly affect our bottom line and prevent us from providing a better standard of living to our wonderful kitchen team.
Why then not just raise your prices?
In some sense, that is what we are doing, but raising prices isn’t transparent. Our surcharge is intended to be clear and completely transparent as to what the additional money is for. If the minimum wage weren’t mandatorily increased over the next several years, we wouldn’t have to raise our prices. Instead, we’re in a quandary of how to keep the lights on, or provide any pay increases to non-tipped employees, if our payroll mandatorily increases by roughly $15,000 per year.
I'm just a diner, why should I care?
Without getting into the politics of minimum wage, the scheduled escalations provide an annual raise to our most highly paid employees: the servers. A $1/hour increase in pay to our servers is trivial, while a $0.50 increase in pay to our kitchen team is crucial. We’d bet that because you’re choosing to dine at Trokay, you appreciate amazing hospitality, luxurious food, and attention to detail. You probably care that the seafood was caught in a sustainable way; you probably care that the beef came from a small family farm; you probably want to know about Suzanne, our fantastic farmer at Del Rio Botanicals. The reality is that the cooks who made your food are no different: they want to create something truly delicious and an experience you’ll always remember. Our cooks do this for one reason: to make you happy, just like the server who brought that dish to the table.
Is there an alternative to this?
Sure, but you’re not going to like it. We could either implement a flat service charge, or increase prices such that service is included, much as is common in foreign countries and/or The French Laundry. For those of you who’ve dined at The French Laundry, did you still feel compelled to tip? Probably. We did. These are not popular alternatives. Tipping is very much engrained in our culture and change will have to come slowly. Applying a surcharge to the meal allows us to raise the rate of pay and standard of living for our kitchen crew.
What will everybody else be doing?
We’re not sure, but we know other restaurateurs are panicked as well. The restaurant industry is in crisis because of the increased minimum wage and lack of pay exemption for tipped employees. If you’re curious why restaurant chains like Chili’s have changed to a system in which you place your own order through a tablet, and then the food arrives from a food runner, well, now you know. For a restaurant like ours, the hospitality you receive is every bit as important, if not more important, than the delicious food we provide. In fact, what we do in the kitchen is meaningless without a service team that conveys our hospitality. That fact, however, does not justify a pay increase for the server who worked 5 hours and walks out with three times a chef’s daily wage in tips each night, while the chef who worked 10-12 hours only receives her/his daily wages. The upcoming increases in minimum wage widen the income gap between front and back of house, making the inequality of pay worse for the restaurant industry.
We want to thank you for taking the time to better understand the nearly insurmountable challenges we face. We don’t expect that everyone will like or agree with our solution but we do hope that we’ll be given the benefit of the doubt. Ultimately, we’re doing this to preserve the quality of experience you’ve come to expect from our restaurant.
We appreciate you,
John & Nyna Weatherson, Chef and Owners