As of September 15, 2018, in support of the rising costs of employee benefits, we will be adding a 3.5% surcharge to all checks. Please take a moment to read our thoughts and how we arrived at this difficult decision. We hope you’ll understand that our motives are sincere, and our course of action is necessary for a sustainable and fair working environment for all. We appreciate your trust and understanding and will continue to put our heart and soul into providing you delicious food, exceptional service and genuine hospitality.

Dining here isn’t cheap, why don’t you just pay your employees more money?

Dining with us is by no means inexpensive, however it might surprise you to know that restaurants only average 5 cents on the dollar after all expenses are paid— and that was before minimum wage started to climb, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) and other State and local ordinances. In as much as that would be the simplest thing to do it’s simply not possible to do so without making some changes.

Why then not just raise your prices?

In a sense we are, but we’re going about it in the most transparent way possible. It’s important to us that our guests understand we’re not doing this to improve our bottom line but to preserve the modest margin that exists today. But there’s more to it. Since we cannot predict how or what people will order, raising prices doesn’t necessarily mean an additional $1 to pay for these increased expenses. In fact, what the last several years have demonstrated is that ever $1 increase you need necessitates far more than a $1 increase in pricing. By implementing a surcharge, we’re confident we’ll have the resources we need to continue raising wages for all of our employees, not only those earning minimum wage.

Why do you need to raise wages for all?

Due to a peculiar California Labor Code that excludes tips as income (even-though we pay payroll taxes on those tips) and a court ruling in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that excludes kitchen employees from sharing in those tips, there is a very large and growing income gap between tipped and non-tipped employees. Since tipped employees are the only minimum wage employee’s restaurants typically have, they have been the primary beneficiaries of those increases. This is an unfortunate and unintended consequence but one we cannot continue to ignore. With a surcharge, we’ll be able to not only comply with minimum wage ordinances but ALSO raise the pay for those wonderful people in the kitchen whom are already above the minimum.

Is there an alternative to this?

Yes, however, unless there’s a change in labor code or a reversal in the court ruling, restaurants will have to move away from the traditional tip model sometime between now and $15 an hour so that there is a greater income equality. This can be done by implementing a flat service charge like 18% – 20% or raising prices by that amount and having the prices include service much as they do in Europe and other parts of the world. By doing so, restaurants will be able to ensure that those tips are distributed in a fair and equitable manner so that all team members benefit without necessitating drastic price increases year over year. Tipping is very much engrained in our culture and change will have to come slowly. The good news is that in the short term, we are able to raise the quality of pay for our kitchen team and that we have some amazing servers who despite not being compelled to do so, still voluntarily share a portion of their tips with their kitchen counterparts.

What will everybody else be doing?

The next couple years are going to be very difficult for our industry as restaurants do their best to grapple with the changes. Many restaurants will adapt by eliminating servers and having guests order directly at a kiosk or some sort of tablet at the table. Many restaurants are already adapting by reducing the level of service by having you wait in line and order at a counter. For restaurants like ours for whom service and hospitality are as much a part of our experience as the food itself, will have to tackle it in the manners which we have proposed.

We want to thank you for taking the time to better understand the challenges we’re facing. We know not everyone will like or agree with our solution, but we do hope that we’ll be given the benefit of the doubt. We’re doing this to preserve the quality of experience you’ve come to expect from our restaurants, to take care of our hardworking and dedicated team members and in the simplest of terms, to keep the lights on.

Looking forward to delivery True Hospitality at a 3LB establishment near you, The 3 Local Brothers