Park Kitchen officially eliminated tipping on July 1, 2016, and in its place, it instituted a potentially innovative restaurant model, dubbed "one house." Speaking with Eater earlier this year, Park Kitchen owner Scott Dolich said under one house the waiters and chefs at Park Kitchen would shared responsibilities, with both working full-time with benefits. Customers wouldn’t tip, and menu prices would go up by around 18%.
So how’d it go? "One house works for Park Kitchen," says Dolich. "The response from customers has been really positive." But there were surprises. "The vast majority of our waiters ended up not staying, but all of the cooks stayed and loved it." Dolich says most of the waiters were not interested in healthcare benefits, and one of the main "bottlenecks" to his one-service business model is paying servers enough per hour.
Cooks on the other hand, have been more receptive to adding the duties of a waiter to their repertoire. "We started getting some cool applicants — culinary professionals," says Dolich. "After the waiters moved on and we hired new cooks, only one person has left the restaurant since January." He says cooks who want a greater connection with customers, especially how customers respond to their food, are the ideal fit for the one-house model. Chefs who don't want to be seen need not apply.
Will the one-house model will help him absorb the rising costs of doing business in Portland? Dolich says, yes, to some extent, but despite the fact he’s already paying his employees above minimum wage, next year's minimum wage increase will still have its obstacles. He also says while the one-house model works well at Park Kitchen, it won't be a good fit for every size and shape of restaurant. And right now, his greatest challenge is seeing how to assign tasks to a full-time staff the most efficiently.
When asked if he had any advice for other restaurants, Dolich said this: Try something. "Don't just stick your head in the sand. I think the more business models that are out there, the more will succeed."
- Park Kitchen [Official Site]
- Park Kitchen and The Bent Brick Eliminate Tipping; Combine Waiter and Cook Roles [EPDX]
- All Previous Park Kitchen Coverage [EPDX]