Bar Marco

Bar Marco has been rocking the boat since it launched—with a restaurant that has been recognized nationally not only for its inventive food but also for its focus on community programming. And as it turns three this year, it shows no signs of stopping. On January 2, the restaurant tweeted some pretty groundbreaking news.

Bar Marco Tweet

With this move, Bar Marco leads with a handful of restaurants in the country—including Thomas Keller’s and Daniel Patterson’s restaurant groups—opting to eschew tipping in favor of offering their staff not only a living wage but the stability that is hard to come by when your take home pay depends on tips.

The minimum wage for tipped workers in Pennsylvania is $2.83. According to a recent Mother Jones article, up to 40 percent of restaurant workers live in near-poverty and less than 15 percent of restaurant workers have employer-sponsored health insurance compared to 42 percent for other industries.

“We’ve been watching the data all year. I put together what we have to do to pay the front and back equally and pay them well and give them a share of the upsides,” says Bar Marco co-owner, Bobby Fry.

Bar Marco will not be adding a service charge to diners’ checks nor will the prices suddenly increase significantly.

“Every restaurant does it a little bit differently. Some restaurants charge a 20 percent service fee—I don’t think that will work well for us,” says Fry. “Our plan hinges on hitting revenues—mainly the expansion of the wine room where gratuity and tax have been included since it launched.”

Instead of the current two ticketed seatings, the restaurant will now take reservations. “Six courses for $65, plus wine pairings for an additional $40,” says Fry. “We have also put together a great team in the kitchen. Our menu will change subtly—with dishes that offer more depth.”

All employees at Bar Marco will work 40-44 hours a week maximum—with two days off, plus one night, since the restaurant is closed on Sundays. On top of that, employees get 10 vacation days. Each employee will be paid $35,000 a year base salary, plus health care from date of hire and 500 shares in the business that will vest after three months of employment. Every share is worth $1 after three months and it increases in value as it matures.

“All of our current employees have seen and approved the contract,” says Fry. “They will have a lot of responsibilities, too—like being present at bi-monthly finance meetings. We want complete transparency. We want people who want to be part of what we are doing and who want to grow with us.”

What is the public’s reaction to this news? The tweet in the image featured here had over 300 retweets and favorites.

Still want to leave a gesture of appreciation for the good service you receive? Please do. When the new structure launches, tips at Bar Marco will go toward the Food Revolution Pittsburgh Cooking Club.

Leah Lizarondo is a food advocate, writer and speaker. She is also the co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, an organization that seeks to eliminate food waste to make an impact on hunger and the environment. She is the Chief Veghacker, recipe creator and curator at The Brazen Kitchen, where she writes about food and food policy. She writes about the intersection of food, health, innovation and policy.