I was a little surprised -- and I'm not sure why -- to see this line on the dinner menu at the 715 restaurant in Lawrence, right under the list of vegetables: "Buy the kitchen a six-pack $12." I asked our server if it was a joke, and he reassured me that it wasn't, that many other customers had added 12 bucks to their supper tabs in order to tip the kitchen crew with a six-pack of Miller High Life.
"But wouldn't the guys in the kitchen," I asked, "rather have cash?"
Yeah, I know. What was I thinking? After a long, hot and sometimes grimy shift behind the line, those hardworking cooks deserve a nice cool brew. (Still, there's a high alcoholism rate among chefs and cooks -- I'm familiar with more than a few recovering alcoholics who still work in restaurant kitchens. In fact, I used to drink on the job with a couple of them.)
Matt Hyde, the manager and co-owner of 715, says his business partner, executive chef Michael Beard, got the idea to add the option of tipping the kitchen crew with beer from the Publican in Chicago -- one of the several restaurants around the country featured in yesterday's inc.com article by Clarissa Cruz on this very subject.
There are some rules to the practice at 715, Hyde says: "The kitchen crew isn't allowed to drink while they're working, of course," he says, "and we have a policy that they can only have two beers after their shift in the restaurant. This way, the after-work beers accumulate."
Hyde says as many as 10 customers a night will buy six-packs of Miller High Life (it's the only canned beer sold at 715) for the kitchen: "It prints up on the ticket that the servers turn in, so the cooks know right away when a customer has bought beer for them. It's a real morale booster and helps build a sense of community among staff and patrons. Sometimes the kitchen crew will come out and thank the customers."
But for patrons who would rather tip in cash? "We have a little pig with a garter up near the kitchen," Hyde says. "The cooks are always happy to get those tips, too."