Inflation, and especially rising food prices, have pushed up restaurant bills. And the higher the bill, the more interesting the tip becomes for the waiter, as it is offset against the bill, increasing the gap between the wages of waiters and kitchen staff in the same restaurant. In a labor shortage situation, the situation is unsustainable, according to the Association des restaurateurs du Québec (ARQ), which is calling for a change in the law to allow for tip-sharing.
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“The pandemic has meant that we have lost many kitchen workers,” explains Martin Vézina, Vice President of Public and Government Affairs at ARQ. With the ball of closures and openings, some have turned to the healthcare or construction sectors, he explains. Result: Recruiting cooks, pantries or dishwashers is very difficult.
Corresponding Labor Standards Act In Quebec, the tip belongs to the employee who receives it from the customer. A restaurateur can therefore not oblige his employees in the dining room, especially the waiters, to share the tip with the kitchen staff. This obviously leads to a huge disparity in revenue within the same restaurant. According to ARQ data, in the fall of 2021, one chef got away with an average wage of $19 an hour, while his fellow waiter pocketed closer to $35.
However, it is possible that the employees decide among themselves to separate the tips. They then have to agree on an agreement without their employer’s right of control.
Several restaurants work this way. The ARQ does not have data on the proportion of Quebec establishments where tips are shared, but notes that restaurants that have a sharing agreement will have greater difficulty recruiting servers, especially in the current context where the Potential candidates only have to knock next door to find a job, explains Martin Vézina.
The Association des restaurateurs du Quebec has long defended this issue. At his request, the Minister for Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity, Jean Boulet, set up a tip exchange committee that brought together representatives from the catering industry, the ministry and the unions. The ARQ is preparing to submit its report to the Ministry.
“Since it’s a change in the law, it’s more complicated,” says Martin Vézina.
Jean Bédard, Big Boss of the Grandio Group, known for its La Cage restaurants, supports the revision of the Labor Standards Act. He registered with the Quebec Lobbyists Registry this week with colleague Pierre Moreau, CEO of Restos Plaisirs, now part of the Grandio group.
“The imbalance between the effective wages of kitchen workers and their colleagues continues to widen, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to hire and retain kitchen workers,” the listing reads. “The COVID-19 crisis in Quebec is having a devastating impact on the restaurant workforce,” it said.
In addition to sharing tips, restaurateurs also want verification of how tip credits are calculated. The employer currently receives a premium refund for 75% of the declared tips; Restaurateurs require that refunds be based on the full tips received by their employees.