Restaurateur and slow-food maven Alice Waters was profiled on CBS' 60 Minutes last night about her "crusade for better food." Waters is interesting for several reasons, including for her choices as an employer.
Waters does not believe that traditional tipping is a just way for restaurant employees to be paid, as chefs and cooks who are integral to the quality of the dining experience don't take part. At her restaurant, Chez Panisse, Waters adds a service charge to every check, and the money is split between staff in the front and back of the house.
The New York Times Magazine covered the issue back in October. From the piece:
The owner of arguably the nation’s most celebrated restaurant — Chez Panisse in Berkeley — Waters wrote her board: “At our restaurant the quality of the food and the skill and taste of the cooks are at least as central to our success as the quality of the service. Unfortunately, traditional tipping has created great disparities in earning between the serving staff and the cooking and support staff.” By introducing a service charge — currently 17 percent — Waters was able to increase income to the kitchen.
One note: At Chez Pannise, if diners are interested in tipping beyond the amount on the check, waiters are still allowed to accept it.