By Mike Pomranz
Updated November 04, 2015
Credit: Big Cheese Photo LLC / Alamy

Proponents of ending tipping claim these new policies will revolutionize the restaurant industry by providing everyone a steady living wage. But a Seattle restaurateur who’s recently moved toward a “no tipping” stance believes these changes could have another unexpected repercussion: curbing race and gender discrimination by customers.

Back in May, Seattle chef Renee Erickson did away with tipping at all four of her restaurants – Barnacle, Whale Wins, Boat Street Café, and The Walrus and the Carpenter – opting to add a flat 20 percent service charge that gets split among the entire staff. But in an interview with KUOW radio, she suggested that beyond changing the way wages are paid, the new policy can create subtle differences in the way customers interact with servers.

“Being a woman and serving people can be uncomfortable at times. And there’s comments [that] can be made that remind you that you’re working for a tip, which can be really inappropriate and difficult and not fair and not part of your job,” Erickson told KUOW, before extending her argument beyond just women. “Nobody should have to work under that cloud of feeling like they’re not the right ‘fill in the blank’ to this person who’s controlling their income.” Erickson is far from the only person to notice this phenomenon. There has even been academic research into it.

Though customers’ predisposition to treating different servers in different ways is unlikely to change dramatically, at least these feelings, conscious or subconscious, won’t affect a servers’ earnings, which certainly seems more fair.