At One Austin Restaurant, a Living Wage Doesn't Depend on Tips At One Austin Restaurant, a Living Wage Doesn't Depend on Tips
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At One Austin Restaurant, a Living Wage Doesn't Depend on Tips

by Aaron Cassara, Nona Willis Aronowitz

April 26, 2012

Upon first glance, Austin's Black Star Co-op in Austin looks like any normal hipster restaurant serving craft beers and creative pub food like portobello burgers and redfish po' boys. But as a former waitress, I immediately noticed what was missing: a tip jar. When I inquired, the bartender told me he didn't take tips. Why? Because he makes a living wage. 

After four days of eating and drinking my way through Austin, I noticed Black Star's prices were comparable to the rest of the city's establishments. But if they're like any other mom-and-pop restaurant, their profit margins must be pretty thin. So how can they pay their workers this much without raising prices? "With a co-op, there is no mom or pop trying to maximize the money they're putting in their pockets," says Young. "The money goes back to the members, or back to the business, or to charity. Nobody's going to retire off of this." Young also admits these wages would be difficult to sustain without the restaurant's accompanying microbrewery.

Clearly Black Star is a special case, but that doesn't mean other restaurants can't learn from its model. Most importantly, Young says, employers should expect more from their workers. "The reason we pay more is because everyone has managerial duties. It's not a hierarchy," he says. "If you take better care of your employees, you can get more out of them."

Photos by Aaron Cassara

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At One Austin Restaurant, a Living Wage Doesn't Depend on Tips