What is Sen. Brian Langley thinking?

He has proposed a change in state law to allow restaurant owners to share in employee tips. His proposal would also delete the requirement that business owners must pay tips charged to a credit card to the employee earning said tip in the very next paycheck.

Grabbing tips and delaying payment owed is not just a bad idea, it’s a really bad idea.

The difference between a 10 percent and a 20 percent restaurant tip is good, attentive service. No one tips well for bad service, even if the food is good, but a lot of people generously reward good service, even when the food is bad.

If a server is attentive, there is financial reward for the effort.

Same goes for anyone in the service industry. Taking away that earning incentive will invite mediocrity. Why provide extraordinary service table-side if you’re not entitled to keep the resulting tip?

It’s practically an invitation for every employee to coast through the work shift, which is certainly not what customers are looking for in their service providers, restaurants or otherwise.

Wait staff are generally paid less than a minimum hourly wage and — to varying degrees — they hustle to make a livable wage. Those who provide better service make better money; those who don’t earn less.

It’s a customer-driven system and it works.

Sen. Brian Langley owns — here it is — the Union River Lobster Pot in Ellsworth, a destination restaurant that features seafood and other tasty specialties.

That a restaurant owner should sponsor a bill to allow himself and other restaurant owners to share in their employees’ tips is suspect, and changing Maine’s incentive-based, customer-driven restaurant business just doesn’t make sense.

There’s no question that restaurant ownership is a tough investment that requires a great deal of effort, but owners earn their profits through the products they dish up on plates. And, they can make their establishments more attractive by hiring competent wait staff who can often lure customers to return. The best way to get competent wait staff to hang around is to let them pocket tips based on their personal performance.

If owners start reaching into waiters’ pockets to collect a share of all tips, what’s the incentive for wait staff to excel?

Customers want good food and excellent service. Diminishing the incentive to provide excellent service just doesn’t make sense for the long-term success of any restaurant in a state that is so heavily tourist-dependent.

Jeers to every minute considered in making this bad idea into state law.

*

Cheers to Dave Jones, Lewiston’s Public Works director, for responding to our readers online, answering questions about snow removal this week in the face of criticism that the city was not doing enough to keep travelers safe.

On Thursday, we published a letter to the editor critical of the snow-removal process in the city, and Jones responded online to the letter-writer by explaining that two major storms in quick succession made it difficult to keep up with snow removal, and he listed where snow removal had occurred and which roads were up next.

In this city, where a lot of streets were not plowed until very late in the day Wednesday, it was comforting to see a city official take a moment to explain the snow-removal plan and urge motorists to use caution.

It was a bit of communication our readers welcomed, and we encourage other officials — municipal, state, financial and political — to join our online conversation and talk to city residents directly.

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The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.


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