Restaurant News: Aqua & El Gaucho Are Seattle’s Latest Restaurants to Challenge Tipping Culture

Mar 04, 2016 04:30 AM EST | By Shilpa Chakravorty

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Upscale steakhouse El Gaucho, along with their sister company Aqua, which focuses on seafood, will join the latest lists of Seattle restaurants to replace tipping with a 20% service charge starting from March 21, according to a press release.

Taking into Seattle's rising minimum wage, the change will not be made in other El Gaucho locations of Bellevue, Tacoma, Portland or Ore at the present time, according to Eater.

Among others, major Seattle restaurateurs Renee Erickson and Tom Douglas have already begun moving in the tip-free direction, and just last month Eater broke the news that Josh Henderson's wildly prolific Huxley Wallace Collective would go that way as well. 

The release note of El Gaucho mentioned that the company had included a service charge at its many private events for the past two decades, and hence the model is a familiar one for them.

The Seattle Times has more on the announcement, including an explanation from restaurant president and COO Chad Mackay about the company's willingness to accept additional gratuities.

"In our private-dining business, people bump [up the service charge] all the time," Mackay notes, and the process will be similar, with checks clearly saying service included, credit-card receipts arriving already totaled and staff confirming that any extra gratuity is intentional ("which is very unheard of," he adds).

Mackay has also mentioned that El Gaucho has long paid their kitchen staff really well, and hence they are not concerned with facing adjustment issues concerning back of house staff, who are considered the most low - earning employees, according to statistics.

Mackay also said that he expects front-of-house staff to do "as well or better in this model," which will include an hourly wage plus commissions on sales.

Additionally, although El Gaucho diners are not expected to tip the servers, given the new service charge, yet additional gratuities will still be accepted at El Gaucho, and are not "eliminated".

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