Fol Epi, popular Victoria restaurant, takes tipping off the menu

Fol Epi, popular Victoria restaurant, takes tipping off the menu
WatchIt's tough times for businesses, least of all restaurants. Many are just re-opening and adjusting to the new normal. At Victoria's Fol Epi bakery, customers will notice a difference as there is no more tipping. But it comes at a cost.

Victoria’s Fol Epi bakery is trying to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, like so many other restaurants in the city.

Owner Cliff Leir said business has been challenging over the past three months.

“I’ve been in business for over twenty years in Victoria. This is the craziest time ever,” Leir said.

But the pandemic is also leading to new ideas about how to do business.  Last week, Leir has eliminated tipping at his two Fol Epi bakeries and his Agrius restaurant. At the same time, he raised his prices as well as hiking employees’ wages to $20 an hour.

He said the changes are because of the challenging environment his staff face working during a pandemic.

“We have a great client base and very progressive thinking people. And people are aware of these issues going on for a long time,” Leir said.

Customer Stephen Parslow likes to get his morning coffee at Fol Epi, and he said he supports the restaurant’s new policy.

“I support it. I think we need to have living wages for people who are working in these jobs. And it’s really critical. We want people to be providing these services, we need to be able to pay for it,” Parslow said.

Employee Rebecca Hughes said the response from the public is positive, but not everyone is completely on board.

“I think there have been a few grumbles, but generally, to me, it seems like it is very positive,” Hughes said.

In 2014, Parksville’s Smoke ‘N Water became Canada’s first restaurant to eliminate tipping while raising wages and prices. But owner David Jones put tipping back on the menu after hearing from customers after just three months.

“It’s not that they don’t like it, but they want to have a say. They feel the say has been taken away from them,” Jones said.

Mark Colgate, a professer of Service Excellence at the University of Victoria, Gustavson School of Business, said that customers are used to tipping, and by removing it, restaurants appear to be more expensive. 

“The bottom line is that this is probably an uphill battle,” Colgate said.

According to Colgate, the problem for any restaurant is that consumers are price sensitive.

“The issue is people expect there to be taxes on top of the prices. So when we compare one restaurant to another, and the other one has included the tipping in the price of their meals, then you are not going to choose that restaurant,” Colgate said.

But Leir says he is committed to keeping higher wages and no tipping on the menu.

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