We Don't Do That Here

We Don't Do That Here


There is a rise in restaurants adding an automatic service charge on checks. Forest & Flour is one of these establishments. Each business’s practice behind this may be different but at the end of the day, I believe our collective intention is to make sure the staff is treated well.

As we step into a new year in a brick-and-mortar and launch a new website, I want to highlight why we add this service charge at the farmers’ markets (15%) and at our eatery (20%), in lieu of tipping. We call it the Staff Wellness Allocation Program (SWAP) at Forest & Flour. One hundred percent of our SWAP goes towards full health insurance coverage for full-time staff, PTO for the entire team, and other wellness-related expenses*.

I was born with a spatula in my hand. The kitchen has always been that place for me - magical and delicious.

My first real paying job was at Wendy’s. I was fourteen. Despite my mother’s stubborn request not to get a job (!!!), I was even more stubborn, because I ended up back there in the hot steaming kitchen flipping burgers and frying those French fries I love eating whenever there was downtime. And wouldn’t you know, I was quite good at it. Within a short time, I was “promoted” to the front of the house.

As the years went on (about 20 years to be exact), I worked at different hospitality establishments. The work I did ranged from washing dishes to cooking to taking orders to making drinks with expensive handcrafted bitters, and once in a while singing happy birthday to embarrass the birthday star in the hopes that a free mini sundae and an off-key tune would earn me a bigger tip (yes, Cheesecake Factory, I’m talking about you).

I have seen firsthand how staff were treated by entitled customers and abusive chefs and management. I was also on the receiving end. Once I informed the management the assistant manager took tips from a cocktail waitress, and was told to shut up and mind my own damn business; a white couple told me that I didn’t know what I was doing because I was Asian.

I do, however, count my blessings because in the two decades of service jobs, I can count these incidents on just one hand and have fingers left over.

All the restaurants I worked at after I moved to the states paid very little. In the concrete jungle of New York - I earned less than $4 an hour and later found out that the business was not meeting the minimum wage requirement. I relied on tips to make a living because my job titles and basic job duties did not pay enough for rent, food, and other necessities. Generally, after the night’s work, the servers then tip out the bartenders and the food runners for their work because that’s how they make their living. It’s safe to assume that sometimes there are issues because sadly to say - humans! We make irrational decisions. Someone inevitably did not get paid what they were supposed to.


In 2022, I learned about the history of tipping from this podcast. It prompted me to investigate this practice that has become a norm in the United States. The current explanation is after the Civil War, white people used tipping as a method of power hoarding. Instead of creating jobs that pay people fairly, they hired the newly “freed” black workers and paid them very little, if any. When and if they determined that a job was “well done”, a tip was given at their discretion. It was a new form of slavery to replace the free workers they had lost. This is not untrue, but the reality as is so common is even more complex and insidious.

Tipping culture clearly predates the end of slavery, but it has always been a tool of the aristocracy to maintain the status differential between classes. Actions by states like Missouri and 5 others that banned tipping in 1915 to prevent discrimination were overturned by claims of unconstitutionality by 1926, then codified into law with the New Deal of 1936, allowing employers to push the burden of fair wages onto the customers with tip credit wage positions.

On language

All of the places I worked at separated the staff as front of the house (FOH: servers, bartenders, etc) and back of the house (BOH: the kitchen staff), and just as the language indicates, they are often two different groups/cliques. Rarely, you will see FOH and BOH staff hanging out together. More often than not, the BOH was looked down upon by the FOH, where the kitchen staff is mostly made up of black and Latin X populations. The tension between FOH and BOH is not uncommon.

After reading this article (shout out to Good Good Culture Club ✌️), we decided that we would be very intentional with the words we use in our establishment. For example, we call our dishwashing area the dish room/storage room instead of the dish pit and use the dining room and the kitchen instead of FOH/BOH.

We aim to create a space where not only our visitors feel taken care of, but also foster a sense of well-being amongst our team. Plus who doesn’t love a good party?! (The introvert in me says please define party.)

For a long time, hospitality practices have benefited the customers, and especially higher management and their stakeholders on the expenses of workers’ general health. We have been accustomed to buying bigger, cheaper, and faster, while the true food cost has been subsidized by the workers. I truly believe that we can change the status quo so that all of us can thrive, and that when someone asks what I do for a living, I can proudly say that I’m in service of others, and it is a beautiful and excellent way to make a living.

TLTR - tipping is rooted in racism and classism. Language in the service industry can trigger trauma. We don’t do that here at Forest & Flour.

Additional Reading

We are providing two additional articles here as food for thought:

USA Today - Fact check: Tipping began amid slavery, then helped keep former Black slaves' wages low

AIER - Did Tipping Come from Slavery? The 1619 Project Lies Again

(The second article was written from an opposing point of view, but in the end, we feel it still makes our point.)

*It is important to us to be transparent about how we use the money and what we pay our staff so I will let you know that everyone who has finished training gets paid a minimum of $20 an hour. Those in training start at $18 an hour and scale up towards regular hourly compensation. Our goal is to pay the team $23+ an hour by the end of 2023**. Forest & Flour also conducts paid interviews with all applicants regardless of their end-hiring status since the founding of the company in 2019.

**update 02/22/2024 - we are not there yet but this is the goal we continue to work towards to!


Changes are hard. And since the tipping culture has been so systemically rooted, we are bound to see resistance from consumers and even within the industry. A lot of you have expressed your support and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We have to do this work together in community, and we seriously have the best visitors that come through our doors!

We at Forest & Flour want to emphasize the importance of kindness and education as we continue to learn and dissect this topic (we are still learning, too!). Our intention has always been to bring belonging and prosperity to the whole. We invite and encourage you to reach out with conversations.

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