A downtown Salt Lake City coffee shop has made national headlines after the owner announced he would be eliminating tipping in the cafe while raising his employees’ wages as well as the price of beverages.
Nick Price, owner of Three Pines Coffee at 165 S. Main St., made the announcement on Instagram at the end of December and implemented the new policies on Jan. 1.
“We believe these changes will not only improve the livelihoods of our fantastic team but also contribute to a more positive and equitable coffee culture in our community,” the post on Three Pines Coffee’s Instagram read.
All of Three Pines Coffee’s employees received a wage increase from a base pay of $8 to $18, which is the livable wage for an adult in Salt Lake County without any children, according to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator.
The price of coffee also went up about 20%, or approximately $1 per cup, Price told The Salt Lake Tribune.
And most noticeably, the option to tip when you go to pay with your credit card is gone. Tipping had been the norm at Three Pines Coffee since it opened in 2017.
Price said he was inspired to do away with tips at his cafe by the book “Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business” by restaurateur Danny Meyer, but was also prompted to make the change after experiencing “tipping fatigue” firsthand.
He said he started questioning the common American practice of tipping for just about everything when he was asked to leave a tip at a self-serve restaurant. Once, Price said, he was asked if he wanted to leave a tip while at a self-checkout. “I was, like, ‘This has just gone too far,’” he said.
Doing away with tips and increasing his employees’ wages ensures that everyone’s pay remains even, Price said, instead of going down during the doldrums of winter and up during the busier summer months. When employees were relying on tips, he said, that discrepancy in pay was “alarming,” with some workers making less than $14 an hour during the colder months.
Price also said that not having the option on the screen to tip removes frustration for the customer.
“Cafes work in this very awkward zone where we ask for payment and we ask for a tip before any service has been provided,” he said.
But now, the experience of ordering in a coffee shop is more transparent, he said. Instead of trying to calculate what you should tip for a cup of coffee, the prices you see on Three Pines Coffee’s menu include everything.
“They include sales taxes, they include processing fees, and now they include enough so that every barista makes a livable wage,” Price said.
Price said he doesn’t have a problem with tipping. “My problem is businesses that pay their employees a lower hourly rate and expect the customer to make up for their pay in tips,” he said.
The customers’ response to the changes has been mostly good, Price said, with a minority saying Three Pines Coffee has taken away their right to tip.
In response, Price said, “I just want to make it easier for everyone and make sure that my employees have a consistent wage. So I’m not trying to take away anything from anyone.”
“I’m just trying to do my best to run my tiny little coffee shop in the way that I feel good about when I go to sleep at night,” he continued.
Zion Tuiasoa, a barista at Three Pines, said via text that Three Pines Coffee getting rid of tipping was “nerve-wracking at first. I’ve never worked at a coffee shop that did this, so I was curious to see what it would be like.”
But after receiving a few paychecks and interacting with customers in a more “authentic” way, she said she is liking the experience.
Tuiasoa also said that knowing how much she is going to be paid “allows me to budget properly, and have less stress that I won’t be able to make ends meet.”
Now, Tuiasoa said she feels she can approach coffee “as a career rather than a side job,” and added that she has been able to build more trust in her boss and co-workers.
“I feel more highly valued at my job and that is so important,” she said. “I’ve worked in coffee for 10 years and have never felt more fulfilled than I do working at Three Pines.”
Price also is a co-owner of Holy Water Coffee at 712 E. 100 South, Salt Lake City.