Comal, Former No-Tipping Chief within the Bay Space, Brings Again Ideas

Comal Mexican eating places in Berkeley and Oakland are bringing again conventional ideas, or no less than tip pooling, proprietor John Paluska confirmed for Eater SF. Comal has been acclaimed as one of many main voices for the no-tipping motion within the Bay Space over the previous seven years. The standalone restaurant first eliminated tips in 2014, when it launched a service cost as a result of it needed to pay staff honest wages throughout front- and back-of-house. However now, having grown to a bunch of three eating places with a few fast-casual counters, and getting ready to reopen with a really completely different enterprise mannequin, Paluska says the no-tipping mannequin was now not viable.

“We don’t really feel any higher about ideas,” Paluska says. And he says it’s not a query of the mannequin failing. “We felt like our transfer to a service cost was profitable. We aren’t shifting away from that mannequin as a result of it’s damaged. However … the panorama is completely different now, and we’ve to work inside that.”

Pre-pandemic, Comal had a 20 p.c service price, in lieu of ideas. Throughout the pandemic, it switched to service-inclusive pricing for takeout and supply. And now for reopening, it’s bringing again ideas and planning to pool ideas inside every of its eating places, a change they already made every week in the past, as of Might 12. Comal has grown to incorporate three places, together with the unique Comal in Berkeley, fast-casual spin-off Comal Next Door close by, and extra of a hybrid of the 2 service kinds at Comal Subsequent Door in Oakland, which opened in the course of the pandemic. Paluska additionally confirmed that he has parted methods with longtime associate Andrew Hoffman, who’s heading over to work with Water2Table, the sustainable seafood provider that works with many star eating places.

Paluska mentioned he nonetheless believes in the entire causes for the no-tipping mannequin, however he was confronted with a really completely different situation now, each within the scope of his restaurant group, and because the metropolis strikes into reopening post-pandemic. Including a service cost was a unique determination for a standalone, sit-down restaurant in 2014, in comparison with rolling that call throughout three completely different eating places with extra counter service, to not point out pandemic-pushed takeout and supply. “Between the entire completely different enterprise fashions, we’re striving for consistency throughout all of the completely different eating places,” says Paluska. “ … and we in the end concluded {that a} service cost for counter service doesn’t work.”

Comal was one of half a dozen restaurants that made headlines round 2014, for switching to a no-tipping mannequin, across the similar time as Bar Agricole and Trou Normand in San Francisco, in addition to Camino and Duende within the East Bay. Bar Agricole and Trou Normand returned to ideas after lower than a yr, and have since closed in the course of the pandemic, Camino closed in 2018, and Duende is the one one remaining to reopen this spring. “We had been one of many few locations left standing,” Paluska says. “No matter wave there was [in no-tipping restaurants], it dissipated rapidly. We thought there can be energy in numbers, but it surely didn’t occur.”

Nevertheless, this announcement comes solely two weeks after Zuni Cafe, the groundbreaking Californian restaurant on Market Road, introduced that it could be eliminating ideas, upsetting its legendary lifetime servers. Keep tuned for extra updates on the no-tipping debate, which clearly wages on because the Bay Space strikes into reopening.

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