Restaurants Ask Diners to Buy Beer for the Kitchen

Enterprising restaurants have found a new, cost-effective way of acknowledging their line cooks' contributions, according to an item posted this week on Inc. Magazine's blog.

At restaurants from Los Angeles to Cambridge, Massachusetts, customers are given the option of buying the kitchen a round of beers. The shift beer six-pack, usually listed on the dessert menu, is priced from $7-$12. Inc. reports The Publican in Chicago typically sells at least one or two liquid tip packages each night -- a tally boosted by the restaurant's practice of ringing a bell whenever a "Six-pack for the Kitchen" is sold.

The beer tip neatly solves the problem of adequately expressing appreciation for excellent food. While service staffers reap immediate monetary benefits for doing their jobs well, a back-of-the-house worker generally has to make do with an hourly wage and the executive chef's approval. While customers at sushi and oyster bars are accustomed to tip jars, few diners at other types of restaurants seek out ways of rewarding cooks for their talent.

Interestingly, anecdotal evidence suggests open kitchens -- which allow customers to witness the hard work invested in their dishes -- haven't inspired a significant increase in cook tips. At Ristorante Nicola, where the exhibition kitchen is a focal point of the dining room, kitchen staffers haven't gotten in the habit of accepting beer, cash or compliments.

"The staff I talked to at Ristorante Nicola did not have any examples," emailed spokesman Jef Tingley, who agreed to investigate.

At The Publican, where the beer tipping program's formalized, kitchen staffers have collected as many as 42 beers in one night. As the chef there clarifies, the beers are served after work.

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