Sushi Spot’s new employee equity program sparks social media backlash

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Sushi Spot is known as a place to get sushi at a convenient and quality price.

Patrons of the restaurant were met with a new change on February 5th: an employee equity program.

“With that, we are trying to eliminate the tip system. We want to do an 18% charge, pretty much like an increase to our menu prices,” manager Jamie Osorio said. “We make it so that everyone is given a fair amount of money when it comes to working in the restaurant, so our head sashimi chef would be making as much as our head server.”

The restaurant’s new employee equity program will charge diners 18 percent equity charges. And for those ordering takeout, a 10 percent charge.

The announcement led to more than 1000 comments in the Humboldt Foodies Facebook group.

Comments such as “Yeah, you lost my business. Tips means to ensure prompt service. It’s not owed, it’s earned.” and “It’s not ‘gratuity’ if it’s ‘mandatory.'”

Sushi Spot would eventually release a statement further explaining the decision stating “We acknowledged that we cannot please everyone and expected some negative reactions to our new policy, but it is time to move in a new direction and away from a tipping system and into a shared equity program that benefits everyone in the restaurant fairly.”

“Some of the nights, like for example, we’ll get real busy. It’ll be a Saturday night and we’ll all be working hard. At the end of the night, yes we did it together. Some servers will walk out with $200, $250. While we get $40 in the back.”

This program is nothing new as other restaurants have begun implementing such a program.

But it also comes at a time when tipping fatigue is hitting customers as it was prevalent during the covid 19 pandemic.

That and the rise of internet-based point-of-service systems asking for tips upon purchasing a product.

We reached out to the Department of Economics chair professor Eric Eschker at Cal Poly Humboldt for thoughts on the new employee equity program.

Eschker ​​​​​​​said in an email, “One predicted outcome of dividing the gratuity equally among all servers is that service quality will fall. The tip provides a great incentive to give good service. But if the tips are equally divided, a server has no incentive to do a good job or to even be courteous. They will get paid no matter what. Well, until the patrons stop visiting the restaurant.”

“We’re just trying to create an equal and fair system. I know we are the first ones to do it,” Osorio said. “I know it’s going to be a very difficult path to get through. I know that it’s the right decision.”