One Of The Fanciest Restaurants In America Has Been Stealing Tips

Illustration for article titled One Of The Fanciest Restaurants In America Has Been Stealing Tips

You’d think that a restaurant like Per Se, a place featured in rom-coms as being quintessentially fancy, would have the decency to pay its employees a fair wage and not steal its workers’ tips. But the economy’s bad right now and even the most prestigious restaurants have to make ends meet.


The New York Times reports that Per Se will have to pay employees approximately $500,000 in lost tips due to the restaurant’s shady use of service charges for private dining events. While consumers thought that those dollars were going to the employees who served during their parties, Per Se had a different idea—they pocketed it.

From The Times:

The violations at Per Se, which lasted from January 2011 to September 2012, center on the language the restaurant used on bills for private dining events to describe an additional 20 percent charge. Per Se called it a “service charge,” terminology that could lead customers to believe it represented a tip for employees. The restaurant also told some customers who inquired that the extra charge was a gratuity, the attorney general’s office said.

The money was used, however, not to line the pockets of the servers, but for the restaurant’s “operational costs.” You know, it’s all about the prestige of working at a Thomas Keller joint... even if that prestige comes with an illegal pay cut.

Per Se has denied any wrongdoing, claiming that the mistake was an oversight based on outdated terminology. In addition to returning the money, Per Se must make it easier for employees to complain about unfair labor practices (such as “outdated regulations”), provide servers with more training, and designate a compliance monitor so this kind of oversight doesn’t ever happen again. Really surprised that the employees “hurt by the violations” haven’t set fire to the restaurant or Thomas Keller’s bed of money (on which I like to imagine he sleeps comfortably each night). $500,000? You got off pretty easy, Per Se.

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Happens a lot more than you would think. Especially anywhere that is a Pooled House. I worked at a certain James Beard Award winning restaurant that was a pooled house. We would all get together and do the math on our sales and what we each brought in, to find that most nights about 20-25% of our income was just missing.

Wanna know a shitty feeling? Selling $3000 worth of wine and food to very demanding people, being fucking perfect, and then making less than $200, on a Saturday night.

Another popular scam many restaurants do, is take the cost of running credit cards out of server tips... This one is really common. Server tips paying for a multi-million dollar business’ cost of operations.