About a month ago we broke the news that Zach Pollack of Silver Lake’s Alimento was instituting a separate line for kitchen gratuity on all checks—the first of its kind in the nation, as far as we can tell. The move was meant to help offset the disparity between front-of-house and back-of-house pay, and ignited a swarm of public debate over the issues of restaurant gratuities and kitchen compensation.
“The comments I saw online in response were crazy negative,” says Alimento’s chef-owner, Zach Pollack. “I also received a few angry emails from people, but once I explained the state laws regarding wages and tip pooling, every one of them changed their minds.”
So, then, is the policy working? Are wages evening out? “Kitchen tips have been averaging 4 percent,” says Pollack, “which, needless to say, makes an enormous difference in the lives of our cooks.
“Service tips have gone down by an average of 1 percent. I don’t want to say that’s immaterial, but it’s small change for them, and overall the servers are happy.”
As for us diners, Pollack claims that most folks are fine with the policy, while a few have expressed disapproval via the restaurant’s provided comment cards. “We know that some people are going to be disturbed,” he says, but claims that so far there hasn’t been much backlash.
“Most importantly, last week I handed my line cooks an extra $500 each for two weeks of work,” he says. “That’s a big chunk of rent for a lot of them. It’s as good of an outcome as we could have hoped for.”
It’s unclear yet if the policy will catch on, but Pollack hints that he has been in touch with a “pretty huge, national level chef” who is interested in copying Alimento’s move. “And I’ve received a lot of support from people in the L.A. restaurant circle,” he says. “They all tell me, ‘It’s a great idea, I’m curious to see how it goes—keep me posted.’”
One should keep in mind that Alimento’s new gratuity policy launched at the start of the Holiday season, which has even the most frugal among us shelling out an extra few bucks out of the goodness of our hearts. “Some people have been tipping 20 percent to both the servers and the kitchen,” says Pollack. “That’s nuts.” Time will tell if we all turn to Scrooges without the warm glow of Christmas lights. Though we would argue that Alimento’s Pig in a Blanket sandwich is just as magical.
Alimento, 1710 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake, 323-928-2888