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Le Pigeon and Little Bird Bistro Bring Back Tipping

Both Portland restaurants went gratuity-free last year

Chef Gabriel Rucker
Dina Avila/EPDX

A little less than a year after going gratuity-free, Chef Gabriel Rucker’s Le Pigeon and Little Bird Bistro will reinstate tipping this week. "While we are proud to have experimented with this format," co-owner Andrew Fortgang tells Eater, "it unfortunately did not work as well as we would have hoped."

Like many restaurants across the nation — most notably those within big-time New York chef Danny Meyer’s restaurant group — Le Pigeon and Little Bird primarily eliminated tipping to combat income disparity between front-of-the-house staff (waiters, bartenders, etc.) and back-of-the-house workers (chefs, dish washers, etc.). To do so, it raised food and beverage prices by an average of 20 percent to include tip, and Fortgang says the higher prices were too much for some diners. (The prices are now reduced and do not include tip.)

"Even though the final cost of any given item was the same, the perception that things were a little too expensive was there," says Fortgang, "which I understand. We all have ideas in our mind of what something should cost. Wine was especially tricky under this model."

Little Bird Bistro will reinstate tipping today, May 22, and Le Pigeon will return to the traditional tip model tomorrow, May 23. Fortgang says he and the team still welcome fresh ideas for doing business, and in one way, removing tipping was a success.

"The gratuity-free model showed that our servers are proud professionals," says Fortgang. "During the entire time we were gratuity-free, service never suffered. If we helped to de-bunk the (insulting) myth that servers won't give good service without a tip, well I count that as a huge success."

Little Bird Bistro

215 Southwest 6th Avenue, , OR 97204 (503) 688-5952 Visit Website

Le Pigeon

738 East Burnside Street, , OR 97214 (503) 546-8796 Visit Website