A handful of restaurants in Jamaica Plain are rolling out some changes to their billing structures today, according to Boston Magazine. Tres Gatos (470 Centre St.) and Centre Street Cafe (669a Centre St.) — plus the forthcoming Casa Verde, from the same team — will start adding a hospitality administration fee to checks to close the gap between front-of-house and back-of-house pay.
Owners David Doyle, Maricely Perez-Alers, and Keith Harmon announced the forthcoming changes in a statement, saying: "We would like to be agents of change and share our results with other restaurants."
These changes start today. Group, prix fixe, and event dining will be subject to a 15 percent service charge and a seven percent hospitality fee, while other diners will see a three percent hospitality fee on their bills. Guests are welcome to tip on top of this, and there will be a separate gratuity line that will go 100 percent to the servers, according to Harmon.
"The main goal for us was to create a policy that had minimal impact on [front-of-house] earnings and guest expectations but still allowed us to make a significant change for our kitchen team financially," Harmon wrote in an email to Eater.
The three percent hospitality fee on restaurant bills was a strategic calculation, Harmon said, noting that he saw the wage gap as an accounting issue and wanted to look for a solution to implement raises for kitchen employees.
"We need to take our best shot at fixing a problem that is growing increasingly difficult and intolerable, and we need your understanding and support," the owners wrote in a statement to the restaurant community.
Harmon said they looked for a way to make it easier for cooks, chefs, and dishwashers to earn increasingly more as the top line of restaurant earnings grows.
"The fact that Danny Meyer just came out and made this his mission drove our timing, but for us the answer is to put a fee on the top line of revenue and have it track directly to kitchen compensation, so that servers and kitchen wages are more correlated to our top line," Harmon wrote in an email to Eater.
Tres Gatos and Centre Street Cafe start implementing these changes today, and Casa Verde will follow along when it opens in January, according to Harmon. (Located at 711 Centre St. in the former Ghazal Indian Cuisine space, Casa Verde will be a "casual, family-friendly Mexican eatery" with a focus on tacos and ceviche.) The restaurant owners plan to spread the news of the new fees and policies across menus, social media, and websites so guests are aware of what's happening.
"Going into it I think that about 80 percent of guests are going to notice it, not be bothered, and tip as usual on the amount before the fee is added," Harmon said. "Some will tip on top of the fee and others may withhold tipping to compensate, but I think for the most part it's a wash."
Harmon said he did anticipate some distaste for the new policies, but that he and his partners feel strongly about this issue.
"We're going to work our tails off to see it successfully implemented, but it's definitely a big risk and we're hoping that we can get enough support for the new business model to make it effective and sustainable," Harmon said.
The team plans to share the results of these changes as they take effect.