CINCINNATI — Workers at Red Feather Larder Dutch’s, a “groceraunt” in Hyde Park, are making up to $33 an hour with a new tip-pooling system that distributes all tips equally among its staff.
It’s such an appealing structure for employees that Jared Beckman, who left the restaurant industry near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, came back just to work at Dutch’s.
“Even our dishwasher to the bartenders, we all make the same, you know?” said Beckman. “We all just work as a team, and we’re all making a great wage, and it’s kind of the future, I feel like.”
And it’s a future that arrived despite the pandemic, which upended the restaurant industry on a global scale. Beckman said the lowest pay he’s received since restarting is $25 an hour; $33 per hour is the highest.
Dutch’s General Manager Andrew Mersmann said he made the change after a mentor suggested it, and he hopes other businesses will follow his lead.
“I mean, my hope for the future is that more people are able to kind of pivot in ways that not only help their businesses thrive but also help their employees to thrive as well,” he said, adding later: “When people learn we are using this system to enrich the lives of our staff, they tell us they are happy to spend with us."
John Barker of the Ohio Restaurant Association agrees that it’s time for restaurant owners to get creative and put effort into ensuring employees are cared for. It’s not just a moral demand — the pandemic drove many servers out of the restaurant industry entirely.
Like Jared Beckman, they’re hesitant to come back unless the workplaces awaiting them are more supportive, more respectful and more lucrative than the ones they left.
“Everything matters today, you know,” Barker said. “If you're running so short of employees, you really got to put together a great package. You got to have a great culture in place. You got to really care about your employees. This is what we see from our best operators.”