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Where's the Tip Jar?

by Josh Lindstrom on

As opening day at Fika Coffee quickly approaches, more and more things come to our mind that we are excited to share with our community of coffee enthusiasts.

In posting these weekly micro-posts, our goal is to get people excited and engaged in what Fika Coffee is hoping to do. And by that, we mean everything from what baked goods we plan to offer to our holistic business plan that will be ever mindful of sustainability and community.

When you walk into Fika Coffee this summer, you'll probably notice a lot of things: an inviting space with carefully chosen lighting, an espresso bar hand-made by a talented Cook County local, the irresistible smells of fresh roasted beans or just-brewed coffee and someone beyond the counter eager to welcome you and jump-start your fika experience.

It's this last image, the Fika Coffee barista, that this post means to shed some light on.

Standing in line, perusing our menu, you'll probably notice another thing: our prices are just a bit higher than you might be used to paying. But, then, as you approach the barista, you'll notice yet another thing: there's no tip jar. And when you offer the barista a tip out of kindness or habit, he won't accept it because the baristas at Fika Coffee won't be working for tips. They'll be working for the fair & livable wage we pay them.

Depending on where you're from or where you've visited, this may seem like a strange and even outlandish thing to do. But, it's not all that uncommon. We've visited two places recently (Delta Diner & Kopplin's Coffee) that are following this exact model and from what we've seen and heard, it's been a success. At the heart of this concept is the desire to create a sustainable work environment where all workers are being compensated fairly for the work they do (whether working in the front of the house or back) and regardless of which shift they work (with some shifts being busy and jammed with customers while others are a mere trickle). Because we expect our employees to give us their best no matter what, they should be able to expect to be compensated accordingly, no matter what.

Kopplin's took the words right out of our mouths when they said: "Our commitment to [employees] is to create a stable and fulfilling role for those who choose to stay with us. In doing so, we make our coffee house a better place for every person who sets foot inside. As we seek to create this alternative to standard ‘service industry’ chains, we choose to provide a fair compensation to these people who bring beauty into our lives with the creations of their hands. We go beyond “living wage” to a wage that we feel is actually liveable based on our own experiences, validating their work and creating an equitable pay environment."

In implementing a no-tip policy, we also hope to create a better environment for our customers. When you walk in, you'll know what your stop will cost you. There will be no awkward hesitating at the tip jar while the barista who is just about to make your drink intently watches to see if you'll leave a tip. When you pay for your coffee and scone, you'll know that everyone who deserves your money (from the person who filled the hopper with beans that morning to the person who will mop the floor that night) will get an equal share of it.

And when you take that first sip of fresh coffee you've just been handed, we hope you'll find satisfaction not only in the perfect brew but in knowing that you are a part of a something good, a model that seeks to create a sustainable, equitable and community-based work environment. We think this is especially important for a community like the one we live in. Because of its tourist-based economy, most of the jobs available to Cook County residents are entry-level and/or seasonal, making Cook County a difficult place to live, especially if you're raising a family. By offering year-round jobs that pay a living wage, we hope to attract employees that want to stick around, not only as our employees but as valuable, integral residents of our incredible county.

We sincerely think you'll find this model to be of benefit to everyone. It may take some getting used to, but we're pretty confident it'll be a catalyst for positive change. And if you just don't think you can handle not tipping, let us put your mind at ease with this: in our book, smiles, genuine thank you's, and repeat business are equal to even the most generous tip.

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