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Biz Journal: No Tipping at New Fishtown Restaurant

July 11, 2014 Category: Uncategorized

This story originally appeared in the Philadelphia Business Journal.

Restaurateurs Cristian Mora and chef Brian Oliveira are hoping their new business model will create a better quality of life for both their employees and patrons.

Girard Brasserie and Bruncherie, which is slated to open at the unfinished site of Girard and Marlboro in September, will boast a sense of European flare—in both flavor and style.

The restaurant will be adopting the European style of offering servers higher hourly wages but will not promote tipping. Customers shouldn’t expect to pay more than the price of their meal, but may tip extra if they’ve received stellar service.

“No tips” may have its benefits. Servers will make $11 dollars an hour, and get paid time off, paid sick days, and health benefits—all at the expense of the restaurant.

“It’s in everyone’s interest that restaurant workers have sick days,” Mora said.

While this model may not be the first of its kind to pop up in the United States, Girard’s no tip comes with a twist. The business will also incorporate profit sharing into its model, where employees have the opportunity to make higher hourly wages based on the restaurant’s success. Mora and Oliveira hope that will mean an extra two to three dollars an hour, but say if Girard does better (which they collectively anticipate) that rate could increase even more.

“Profit sharing aligns the interests of everybody,” Mora said. “If someone breaks a glass it affects the dishwasher as much as it effects the barista. If someone sells more, everyone does better.”

“We understand that this isn’t going to be the job for you if you’re just looking for something for six months just to get you through your last semester of college. Not that we wouldn’t hire you…” added Oliveira, “But, if you’re looking for the profit sharing and really looking for it to be worth it for you to grow and you’re investing sometime in us, we’re investing some time in you.”

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Recently, NPR reported that the federal minimum wage for tipped workers, $2.13 an hour hasn’t been modified since 1991. Additionally, those servers are more likely than other groups to experience poverty.

Bringing servers wages well-above minimum wage and letting them have a share in the overall profits is just one of the many ways Mora and Oliveira said they are trying to show that they care.

Mora was working at Steven Starr’s Parc restaurant where he met Oliveira, who was fresh out of culinary school, and selling his own soups on the side.

“I’ve been in this industry a long time with the hopes of one day doing my own thing and I felt like I was at the point where I was ready, and I started thinking about the people I wanted to work with,” Mora said.

Mora thought of everyone he had worked with, and then he thought of Oliveira and his soups. After Parc, Oliveira moved onto become a part-time manager at Honest Tom’s Taco shop in West Philly.

Later, Mora proposed the idea of becoming partners and realized both of their visions for a restaurant aligned.

“He’s the young one, but he was one that could create something new which is what we’re about and why we see eye-to-eye,” Mora said. “We want to be more progressive, and challenge a bit of the status-quo. Sometimes when you’re in the business a long time you kind of get stuck in your ways and I saw that if someone was going to do something new, out of the people I knew, it was going to be Brian.”

Oliveira said the new venue, as well as the accompanying menu, will be modern yet comfortable.

“It’s a very approachable menu,” Oliveira said, “It’s not your classical French cuisine that’s stuffy and pretentious.”

“It’s food that you love,” explains Mora “But elevated.”

Oliveira explained that in addition to keeping menu items made in-house and seasonally fresh, their smaller “grab and go” coffee area will feature state-of-the art coffee machines that haven’t been released in the U.S. — brewing only single-origin coffee.

Patrons shouldn’t anticipate any syrupy-flavored frappuchinos from what Mora calls the “progressive coffee bar,” but they can expect a nightly, special, roast that was inspired (in part) by Sunday community roasts in England.

But don’t expect to wait over an hour for a table at Girard once it opens because it will be reservation only and won’t have a wait list. If a table isn’t committed to a reservation, it’ll go to a walk-in customer.

“We don’t find it hospitable to make people wait so we can make money off of them,” Oliveira said. “We don’t want to turn people away, [but] we want them to be happy.”

“We really, really care,” Mora said. “Everything is born from that—the reservation system, the food, who we work with, how you get treated.”

“It’s all very sincere,” added Oliveira “We want to offer true hospitality that is genuine and all of the decisions we make is not just to better the business…but we want to make sure everyone helping us is taken care of, that the customers have a truly great experience.”

Image via the Philadelphia Business Journal

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