Marc Vetri Is Pissed: A Q&A About Bill No. 110341

In case you missed it, City Council recently passed Bill No. 110341, which Councilman Jim Kenney introduced last spring to stop the common practice of restaurateurs deducting small percentages from servers’ credit card tips to help cover the transaction fees assessed by credit card companies. Hundreds of Foobooz readers expressed their support for that bill in our informal poll, which was a landslide. One guy who stands firmly planted on the other side of that argument: Marc Vetri. He called me this morning to discuss.

Just to be clear, because I think there has been some confusion out there, you don’t make servers pay the entire credit card fee, right?
Nobody does that. It would be illegal. If the bill is $100 and a customer leaves a $20 tip, we are charged basically around 2%. So we would pay the fee on the bill. And the waiter would pay the fee on the tip.

I thought that Amex was more like 4%.
That is true to some extent. When you’re smaller, like when we had only Vetri, the Amex was like 4%, but then once we started opening the other restaurants and there were more sales, the numbers got lower. Once you are grossing more than $1 million a year, you can make deals.

But it sounds like it can really add up.
Oh yeah, it can be quite a burden. When we had just Vetri, it was a ton of Amex. Monday through Thursday was all corporate. When I saw all those Amexes at 4%, I thought jeez. For a small business guy who’s got 30-40 seats and doing less than a million a year, 4% in a world where you’re making 10%, or whatever the industry average is, well, that’s a lot of money.

Sounds like you should be in the credit card business.
Yeah, it does. But that’s just the way it is, though.

So when someone comes to work for you, are they told that portions of the fees are deducted from their tips?
It isn’t like we have a big sign on the wall, but they all know. It’s common knowledge.

People are so used to paying $3 surcharges at the ATM for the convenience of withdrawing money, and using a credit card in a restaurant is certainly a convenience. I know of at least one Philadelphia restaurant that charges the customer 2% when they use a credit card. Might that be the future of all this?
Um, I don’t know. I would never do that. But if you’re honest about that and let the customer know, nobody can say they didn’t know about it. I would think that the smaller restaurants are more likely to do it.

You’ve been the most vocal about this among your peers, as evidenced by some of your Tweets.
I take a lot of heat off of it, which I don’t necessarily mind. But some of the arguments… like people that say, You’re not a small business. You’re this and you’re that. Well, who is a small businessman? I think that I am the definition of a small businessman. But nobody wants to listen and have a conversation about it. People saying I’m stealing, raping, whatever. You want to have an intelligent conversation about it, let’s have one. Know the facts and make your mind up. But if you’re going to listen to a bunch of idiots who rant and rave, than you’re an idiot.

So how much money are we talking about here? What additional money are you going to have to spend annually?
Probably about $35,000 to $45,000 per year, but with the new restaurant, more like $50,000 or $55,000. Then a guy like Starr, it’s going to be, I would bet, 8 to 10 times that.

One of your Tweets suggested that a server is likely to walk home with only an extra $4 in the pocket at the end of the night. Most of the servers I know live pretty hand-to-mouth, and $4 per shift times, let’s say 20 shifts a month, well, that’s a phone bill, a week or so of groceries.
Totally. But the reality is, a Saturday night might be $4 to $5, and on another night, $2. It does add up. But all this law is doing is shifting money from the business owner to the employee. And where should that money go? Well, nobody asked us about it. The councilman who introduced it – what’s his name? Kenney? He wouldn’t even speak to us. Nutter would hardly speak to us.

Why?
I don’t know. They don’t understand. They don’t get how it affects us. It doesn’t make any sense to me. In all fairness, why should a server who makes like $30 an hour reap all of the benefits of that? Why not give it to the kitchen who works a standard hourly rate? Or why not just leave it the way it is? Nutter did finally talk to me, but he doesn’t understand anything about the bill. It was just a bill that was brought up for some reason or another, and they’re doing it without doing any sort of due diligence whatsoever.

Some have suggested that the credit card fees are similar to the other bills you have to pay like the electric, the linens, the meat truck, that it’s just the cost of doing business.
Listen, if they get $20 on the credit card, I have a fee on that because that goes right to the payroll. When the customer hands us $20 for the server, that goes on their tip check, which is all run through the payroll company, so I’m paying taxes of like 30 percent on that. Everyone is just thinking that the $20 you leave for the server, that that’s it. But that’s not it. When tips go up in  a restaurant, that actually costs the owner more money. I mean, we’re happy they went up, because that means sales went up, but when the server makes more money, we owe more money.

Do you really think this could affect the future of the restaurant industry in Philadelphia?
At the end of the day, it’s not going to be the end of the world for us. We’re in a sweet spot. But for the larger restaurant corporations and the single young restaurant chef who opens one restaurant and has to take credit cards, has 30-40 seats, has those high rates, it’s going to hurt him a lot. And he’s the guy who’s getting the loan and risking everything he has. He’s the guy who’s going to be hurt the most by it, which is a shame. When you open up a restaurant, your first 3 to 4 years of it, you’re not making anything. You’re actually make less than the server. A lot less.

Update: Tip bill based on bad information [The Philly Post]

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  • Cheltenham Charlie

    Just do away with tipping alltogether. Everywhere else in the world seems to do just fine without tipping as we practice it here in the USA. Pay servers a living wage, make it a real job and not something for out-of-work actors to do, and build the gratuity into the bill. Tipping sucks and Vetri sounds kind of sucky for spinning it the way he did. Oh, and it’s not a penalty for using a credit card – who the fuck would sign up for that? It’s a discount for cash. Restauranters are stupid.

  • borders

    The service people should come up with a way for customers to pay tips off the books behind the owners backs. Make cards that are given out after the meal that customers can send tips to an address at pay pal or some other way.

    This would stop Vetri having to whine about having to pay fees on their tips, which, by the way, is part of the business as he is not paying them a real wage.

  • Steve

    Wow, this really just makes Vetri sound like a huge d@uchebag. Not like I would ever fork over the ridiculous amount he is now charging at Vetri, but now in light interview I will never go back to Osteria. I refuse to give him any business if this the way he wants to treat his employees.

  • Jacques

    The idea of tipping a % of the bill is an asinine concept anyhow. The cost of the food on the plate is not the driver of the work necessary by the server. The whole tipping construct is skewed.

    That aside, Vetri is asking servers to take a pay cut to help finance his business. Normally this would be absurd, but the fact that server’s pay is linked directly to the revenues, it makes more sense.

    And Vetri has a good point about the steep credit card fees. A 2% cut of the revenues is a lot to pay. It’s like having another partner in the business.

  • rory

    Borders–there is a way. It’s called tipping with cash. I often put the bill on the card and the tip in cash because I travel around with enough cash to tip but not enough to cover an entire meal.

  • rory

    i just re-read vetri’s answer. my mistake, borders. The paypay address would still go through the payroll service, i’d bet.

    that said, why handle the cash tips for your employees? Let all of that be done off the books as far as you’re concerned and cash works wonders. besides, do they really give the entire tip to vetri? really? if so, honestly, that’s quite noble but also quite dumb.

  • Anne

    Rembrandt’s did this for as long as I worked there. My report always stated exactly how much was being deducted from my credit card tips. So, say I was tipped $85 in CC tips. I would bring in roughly $83/84 and change BEFORE tip-out. That place had the worst tip out system I’ve ever seen. 10% of tips went to the bar, 10% to the busser, 10% to the food runner, and 15% to the host. This was about 2002.

    I find THIS to be far more interesting:
    From the WSJ’s Health Blog by Jacob Goldstein
    Eating out in San Francisco? Besides the tip, you’ll have to figure in the cost of health care. The city’s health-care mandate is now showing up as a surcharge on some restaurant bills, MarketWatch reports.

    Since the beginning of the year, San Francisco businesses have been required to offer health insurance to employees or pay a fee to the city to fund health care.

    Some restaurants are passing the fee on to consumers in the form of a health surcharge, which shows up on the bill as a flat fee ($1 per person, or so) or as a percentage (like sales tax).

    Restaurants have been pretty unhappy about the ordinance all along. The Golden Gate Restaurant Association sued the city, arguing that the rules about employee benefits can be set only by the feds.

    The case has been bouncing through the federal courts, but employers are on the hook for the fees at least until it gets resolved. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is supposed to rule on the case later this month, MarketWatch reports.

    Other state and local governments have been keeping an eye on the situation. If the court winds up ruling that only the feds can set benefit requirements, it could force would-be health reformers in statehouses and city halls around the country to reconsider their plans.

    Since most of the servers I know don’t have/can’t afford health insurance, maybe Kenney should propose this as a bill.

  • shawn

    What a jackass…does he really think public perception is gonna change cause a millionaire doesn’t like it!!

    Your Ann ASS MARC

  • David G

    I’d prefer to get rid of tipping as well and replace it with a living wage. But definitely a ton of pot calling the kettle from Vetri here regarding misinformation.

    1) Per almost all credit card’s terms of service, companies (except gas stations for whatever reason) cannot charge more for credit card purchases than cash. So surcharges are out.

    2) Vetri’s argument of “I pay taxes on that” is misleading. Yes, he pays payroll taxes on tips. That’s true: that’s part of his payroll. The misdirection here is to suggest that he’s somehow getting double hit here with taxes. So let’s take a $100 tip put through the credit card. True, Vetri would pay payroll taxes on the full $100, not the $98 he actually received after the credit card fee. But that $2 of credit card fees on the tip would also be deductible as a business expense. Depending on how things go, the payroll taxes may be a bit more than the deduction to other taxes, or maybe not.

    3.) Point taken that maybe some of that money should go to the kitchen instead, but that’s a problem with tipping, not credit cards.

    4.) If you’re a young restauranteer with 30 seats paying 4% on credit card transactions, you’re either 1) too lazy to learn about Square or Intuit’s GoPayment or 2) not good with money.

    5.) Yes, 2, 3, or 4% is a lot to pay for a customer convenience. But restaurant’s accept credit cards for a reason: customers spend more when they use them.

    The main point is: workers’ wages should not be directly and arbitrarily related to how owners work out their business agreements with third parties. You, as an owner, have the ability to set how customers pay (credit or not) and what credit card companies to work with and what rates you’ll accept. The worker does not.

  • Andrew

    I’d do exactly what Vetri is doing. So would any of you if you owned a business.

    But let’s solve the problem here. Why doesnt vetri just put ATMs with no service charges in his restaurants and tell people to only tip in cash and avoid all you bitches altogether? It would definitely not cost him 35-40,000 a year in fees. Probably a couple grand at most. problem solved.

  • rude

    Seems rude the way Kenney just dreamed this bill up without feedback from the restaurants that create a large tax base for the city. Kenney is rocking the boat when the economy is already hurting? What’s his logic? To make it even harder for a business to survive in Philadelphia? We have enough bureaucracy and corruption in city hall to ensure that. Kenney should be camping with the other Occupy Philly people looking to kill businesses that create jobs. Congrats to Vetri for having the balls to tell the truth. Now duck and cover Mark cause the corrupt pols will be coming for you.

  • borders

    There were public meetings which anyone could attend to discuss the bill. I’m not sure why the owners felt they needed a private chat to discuss it. Guess they can only mingle with the common folk when taking money for the over-priced food.

  • Jen B.

    God forbide the pay rate of $2.83 an hour goes up… What will he do, I guess close all his restaurants… What a Douche, I will not spend one more cent in one of his restaurants…

  • Aaron

    I have a simple answer for vetri. Pay your staff a livable wage, Heath insurance , sick days and vacation . And then I am sure your staff will be happy to help you out with part of the tips that I give them

  • FattyFatMan

    I really don’t think the people responding to this post get it.

    Vetri isn’t asking the waitstaff to subsidize his business.

    Say you go to dinner with 5 people at a Vetri restaurant and the bill is $500.

    You tip $100 by credit card.

    The credit card company charges $12 ($10 for the food, $2 for tip).

    The restaurant should have to pay the fee on the tip? Why exactly?

    If you don’t want servers to get the shaft on the tip, pay cash.

    It’s not Vetri who’s screwing the server, it’s customers who like the convenience of using cards and racking up airline miles and all that other crap.

    For small BYOBs that have a small account, this fee can be an even higher percentage.

    I am not sure what people are getting so worked up about. It’s your fault for using cards.

  • A Server

    I see nothing wrong with it. the $20 tip comes down to $19.5 that the restaurant will get assuming 2.5 points for the cc charge. if the restaurant doesnt get the full $20, why should the server??

  • Deafmute

    Speaking as a 6 year FOH veteran, our system of tipping in this country is completely absurd.

    That being said, until servers start getting vacation time, health insurance, breaks, and (miracle of miracles) sick days, just let them keep the extra $4 a night.

  • Latrice

    I have to say that I’m not shocked by Vetri’s opinions on the Bill. This bill was no secret, I believe Foobooz wrote an article about it in the summer. Restaurant owners knew it was coming down the pike.

    There’s a saying in the restaurant industry in Philly, “you don’t work for Vetri for the pay”. Everyone knows that Vetri doesn’t pay his Back of House workers an hourly wage, but a shift pay that often amounts to less than minimum wage. It seems that he treats his FOH and BOH workers the same at least. He, like so many other restaurant owners are expanding and opening new restaurants using money owed to their workers. I’m glad to hear the opinions of people standing up for hard working individuals who serve their food. More money in their pockets means a more stable and fair economy. More of them can pay off their student loans, credit card debt, and medical bills, taking this burden off the taxpayer. I’m excited to see how this bill will change the face of the industry in our city.

  • FattyFatMan

    Again, Vetri (and other restaurant owners) aren’t taking money from servers.

    Customers who use these stupid cards are (as well as the credit card companies).

    Customers love their cards because of 1) convenience and 2) all the freebies they get back.

    Every time you use a card (at a store, restaurant, online) you claw back money from a business.

    It has to come out of someone’s pocket, and I think it’s ridiculous that customers who love their cards and are screwing businesses to some degree by using them are so indignant.

    Vetri has been a huge boon to the restaurant industry in Philly.

    If you want to support the business and the servers pay cash or use your debit card. It’s that simple.

    There’s no free lunch (har har) and your frequent flier miles come at someone’s expense.

  • eldondre

    seems like another stupid bill from the city that placates uninformed opinion rather than addresses any fundamental issue. anyone who thought the servers didn’t get their tip less the fee probably never thought at all. liek vetri says, at the end of the day, it won’t have much of an impact on the industry (possibly less so than a functional and rational health dept) overall but I can see his point about it being a burden on startups. it seems like the real issue here is the ability of credit cards to force business owners not to pass on the extra costs to consumers via terms of service agreements. if people had to pay the extra 2%, then they could make a rational decision on whether to use a card or pay cash. the current system allows the banks to act like the government taking a small percentage of an enormous amount of transactions with little recourse for merchants or consumers.

  • FattyFatMan

    @ Eldrondre

    +1

  • Dan Elliott

    I understand both sides but we are arguing over peanuts. If this 2% is going to hurt your business that bad I dare say that there are much bigger problems in the restaurant that are having a much bigger affect on your bottom line. Conversely, if you are doing well and operating at a profit and still want to pass off the 2% then you are being greedy. Having said that, servers don’t decide if the restaurant offers CC payment options, if the business owner wants to provide the service of credit cards to their guests they should assume all of the cost. Do we charge the girl checking you out at CVS to use the CC machine? I say pass the cost on to the guest. That would stop this argument real fast. In all fairness it is really crappy that restaurateurs want to charge servers for using the CC machine, the restauranteurs in Pennsylvania have had it really easy for the past 15 years in that they don’t have to pay minimum wage! Remember, almost every restaurant in Philly pays their servers $2.83 an hour and now they want the servers to help cover the cost of the restaurant doing business?!?! Really?!? Serving has always been a transient job for students, single parents, victims of down economy, etc. If you want to make them pay for your services then maybe the servers should start getting higher wages (especially in places that require a high skill/knowledge set like Vetri). Every restauranteur in Philly needs to be thankful that there is not a union in town to organize this mess and start hitting their bottom line really hard by demanding benefits and higher wages. Its gonna happen sooner then later. The restaurant industry in Philly has become a serious source of revenue for everyone and the best thing that restauranteurs can do to avoid the unionizing of their employees is to be thankful for their work and expertise and pay the extra 2%.

    • Tod

      Alright, here we go. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act it is allowed that tipped employees can be required to pay their credit card transaction fees on their tip transaction with the guest. FACT! Tipping is a legally protected transaction between the service team and the guest, which the restaurant mamagement or ownership has no legal right to share in. There is no reason the restaurant should pay the cost of their transaction. None. Dan, don’t break balls, when we worked together at Lacroix you regularly walked with two to three hundred dollars a night, so no crying. And that was ten years ago. For my small biz, I don’t make the staff pay cc fees, but it costs me $6,000 a year. The service staff is basically a 6-10% partners in profits w me, while carrying no risk. I could lose my home, my life savings, everything, after breaking my back for fifteen years to be able to run a successful small biz as a chef owner. Kudos to Marc. He’s not upset at the servers. He’s upset at a clueless councilperson who has no idea what he’s doing, except giving handouts for votes. Same small minded shit that has the little guy chasing his or her tail.

  • FattyFatMan

    @Dan Elliott

    For a business with razor thin profit margins (think ~10%), yeah 2% (or 3 or 4%) is a big deal.

    2% is particularly exorbitant for the service provided, given that in many other countries the fee is much less (think 0.5%).

    You don’t think we pass the cost of using are credit card at CVS to the check out girl? Think again. All businesses have to make up for the cost somehow and it inevitably gets passed back to the consumer in terms of increased prices or decreased expenses (think lower wages).

    That’s the first thing.

    Second thing, this bill doesn’t hurt Vetri in a major way. He’s making noise for the smaller places for whom this does make a difference.

    Third, Philly is lucky as hell to have a thriving restaurant industry. Philly is med and ed and restaurants and not a whole lot else. That restaurant jobs don’t offer benefits like health care and vacation (although at the higher end they do offer a livable wage for people without advanced degrees) is a problem that has to do with our outrageously expensive health care system and other structural problems in the economy.

    Unionizing restaurant workers in Philly to get health benefits is a fantasy. While a couple big shots like Starr might be able to continue operating, the small restaurants and BYOBs that just get by (and make up the majority of the dining scene) would either have to hike prices dramatically (and my feeling is Philly diners would stay home) or go out of business.

    Again. No one wants to take responsibility. Stop. Using. Your. Stupid. Cards.

  • Jeff B

    Any of you who think Marc Vetri is wrong probably don’t own any type of business.

    There are so many costs associated with running ANY business – especially in the city of Philadelphia! Whether it’s Vetri or Marathon Grill why should the employer (owner) have to suck up the cost of associated with a a servers tip?

    The owner is giving his/her bar and waitstaff an opportunity to make money (very good money at Vetri)at what point does the “employee” take responsibility and be thankful for the opportunity (especially at Vetri)? If the employer didn’t take credit cards, business volume for BOTH the owner AND the waitstaff would most likely be less (except in some special instances) – so by taking credit cards the waitstaff also benefits and at a small cost. To the owner that same “small cost” would be one MORE cost added to the list of many others (including the credit card fee they paid for the actual cost of the dinner).

    Guess what? No one is forcing anyone to be a waiter or bartender at Vetri or in general – better yet if you don’t appreciate the opportunity to being given to you, go open your own restaurant and call it “Utopia”!

    In regards to how big or small Marc Vetri’s company is doesn’t matter and is no ones business. Whether he takes in $100K a year or $10 Million a year, he’s in business to make money. In doing so he gives people jobs, pays taxes (so Occupy Philadelphia can waste them) and helps to add a quality of life in the neighborhoods where he’s located.

    If half of the people here who are saying Vetri is wrong – knew how much money a good waiter can make – they would probably change their tune and tip less!

    Full disclosure – I’ve never eaten at Vetri. I don’t own or work in a restaurant. I have worked as a waiter. I believe that way too many people like to play the game “Fantasy Business Owner” where their lack of business acumen, insight and/or commonsense don’t actually financially affect them and then try and project that onto actual business owners!

  • JT

    What a flaming A-hole Vetri is. Oh, boohoohoo. he’s just a small business owner. Give me an F-ing break! He’s 1% wannabe!

  • apps

    …i guess someones gotta pay for that big new chandeleir hanging in vetri (imported from venice no less)!!! its crazy

  • ezfix

    EZ fix, just laid off five servers and cancelled shift drinks and meals and health insurance. Ok Kenney, show us your next dumbass short sighted move

  • L don

    The intriguing thing about this argument is how both sides fail to see things from the others percspective.

    To Vetri… do you have to come across like such an arragent, empathetic, elitest. At the end of the day are we all just trying to survive and make ends meet? Because you have more on the line you are entiteled to not give a shit about your serves liveleyhood but they are suppose to care about your food your restarant, your brand etc.

    Too the workers and servers of the world we need to listen and understand with and open mind how hard it is to pay the bills at the end of the week and the balls it takes to leverage everthing for your business. The reality is business is very tough in todays market. To call a guy like Vetri a dick without listening to his side is ignorant!

    Back to Vetri: I actually agree with your side of the argument but the way you present your it is so aragent its sickning. I dont think you are really listing to the peolpe who work for you, your backbone. Do you forget what its like to not be a god? To earn a honest days pay? Did you ever here of diplomacy, compromise, or did that go out the window when you put out your second cook book. You have changed. You are out of touch. Stop hanging around Mario (who’s tv show is pathetic) and hang out with a few dishwashers you might learn somthing about humanity again.

    ps forgive my spelling im drunk!

  • Anon.

    Too many Restaurant Servers are just a bunch of over entitled whiners who think the world owes them a favor.

    Serving food is the only job in the world that requires little more than a personality (which most of you losers don’t have).

    If life sucks so badly why don’t you go get a real job with real responsibilities.

    Every single night of the week you can see these losers blowing tip money getting wasted and hooking up with co-workers at Good Dog and other bars.

    Seriously get a life.

    People spend thousands and millions to open and keep a business open. All you have to do is f*cking show up and carry a plate of food or do some extra side work.

    Nobody forces you to apply for the job. You do it fully well knowing the potential of making tip money.

    Your college loans are not the restaurant owner’s business. Call mom and dad.

    More of you people just need to do your job and shut the f*ck up.

    • Jen B.

      I understand what you are saying, but some servers are professionals who truly love food and the dining experience. Not all of us are 23… Some of us appreciate the benefits to working in restaurants and choose this profession because it allows us to spend time with our children. With that said, we are getting the shaft… No benefits, none…. No sick days, no health insurance, nothing… And we accept that. We also accept getting paid 2.83 an hour, a wage that doesn’t even cover our taxes for that hour worked. Many of us even manage to put up with over entitled assholes like you who think we are morons and treat us like shit… Is it really to much to ask that a portion of our tip is not taken… Or rather, that portion be built into the actual check before tip is decided? I hope that at the end of the day, you learn to treat people with alittle more dignity than your anon posts.

  • Jacques

    You know what would solve this? There should be some anonymous half-witted angry waiter with a blog to tell Vetri what he thinks!

  • borders

    Offer up two prices on menus: cash and charge. Those who choose the charge option pay the 2% more. Vetris always had that option instead of passing the 2% charge, which was his decision when he chose to work with the credit card companies, onto his workers.

  • Meh-

    Whatever, he’s not in it for humanitarian reasons, he’s in it for profit. What’s the problem with that? Looking out for #1 has become a negative thing for the 99%.

  • FattyFatMan

    @ Borders

    You can’t add the two percent for credit card users because of terms of service arrangements with the credit card companies.

    The way this whole thing works is that the credit card companies (who wield enormous power, especially when dealing with small businesses) do everything in their power to encourage consumers to use cards. They won’t allow businesses to add surcharges.

    Businesses are stuck being cash only or accepting the terms of the credit card companies.

    The real conflict here isn’t between restaurant owners and servers.

    It between consumers, who use these extremely expensive cards that screw businesses, and businesses trying to figure out how to manage the cost.

  • Nick

    Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
    Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
    The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
    In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

    The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
    While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
    And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
    Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

    When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
    I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
    Away to the window I flew like a flash,
    Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

    The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
    Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
    When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
    But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

    With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
    I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
    More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
    And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

    “Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
    On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
    To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
    Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

    As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
    When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
    So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
    With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

    And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
    The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
    As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
    Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

    He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
    And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
    A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
    And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

    His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
    His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
    His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
    And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

    The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
    And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
    He had a broad face and a little round belly,
    That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

    He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
    And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
    A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
    Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

    He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
    And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
    And laying his finger aside of his nose,
    And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

    He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
    And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
    But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
    “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

  • Joe

    way to go Nick!!!!!!!!!

    well said!

  • Jeff B

    @Tod – nicely put!

  • don

    restaurants should just charge a convenience fee for using credit cards just like when you pay a bill over the phone instead of going into the actual place and paying a real person.

  • NutterAgain

    @Tod-perfectly said.

    Michael Nutter destroyed the Manayunk restaurant scene while Councilman there. Now Nutter is working to destroy Philadelphia’s only decent creation in the past ten years. Hey Mike, don’t sign this mistake; you’ve already done enough damage to the culinary arts.

  • TJ

    @Tod

    Very well said.

    No one ever chimes in about how much cash a server takes home each night.

    How much of that goes unreported?

  • Dan

    This is a very good interview. The interviewer is almost patronizingly nice. This lulls the ignoramus into a false sense of security in which he reveals exactly how much of a rich a-hole he is. To Summarize: In order to save his highly profitable companies around 35K a year he is willing to swipe micro-transactions from his waiters who are without health insurance because he believes it is only fair to pass on the credit card company’s unregulated extortion fees onto his wait-staff. He then proceeds to bitch about having to pay payroll taxes that every employer outside of the restaurant industry has to pay (his are probably next to nothing considering the incredibly low minimum wage). He then complains that Mayor Nutter wasn’t, at leats initially, aware of what a big deal he is. I mean, why can’t he just demand a personal meeting with Nutter? I mean he provides the city at least 50 shitty and untaxed jobs. He deserves some special dispensation because he’s been on the Food Network twice! He then blames the waiters for his failure to pay his kitchen staff at a $650 a meal restaurant a living wage. Leading to his final conclusion that it really doesn’t matter to him because he’s a rich guy “in a sweet spot” and is simply screwing his employees of rich dude entitlement. Apparently, getting to be a rich chef doesn’t require a lot of brains.

    • Tod

      Another misinformed statement. The business owner is required to pay payroll tax, social security tax on all REPORTED tips, of which all credit card tips are. About %80-90 of all tips are credit. There must be some kind of reported cash tip reported or the RESTAURANT will get audited and assume the STAFFS tax burden. So for every $100 tipped in credit, there is owed roughly $28 dollars in taxes paid by the restaurant. Plus now having to pick up %3 credit card fees incurred by the cashless transaction between the guest and the service staff. Since when is collecting between $15-$25 dollars an hour a shitty job? These are jobs people hold to pay their way through college (like I did), buy a house (like I did by saving my money), raise a family (like I do everyday). Is it a hard career for both front and back? Yes. If it isn’t, you probably not doing it right.

    • Tod

      Another misinformed statement. The business owner is required to pay payroll tax, social security tax on all REPORTED tips, of which all credit card tips are. About %80-90 of all tips are credit. There must be some kind of reported cash tip reported or the RESTAURANT will get audited and assume the STAFFS tax burden. So for every $100 tipped in credit, there is owed roughly $28 dollars in taxes paid by the restaurant. Plus now having to pick up %3 credit card fees incurred by the cashless transaction between the guest and the service staff. Since when is collecting between $15-$25 dollars an hour a shitty job? These are jobs people hold to pay their way through college (like I did), buy a house (like I did by saving my money), raise a family (like I do everyday). Is it a difficult career for both front and back? Yes. If it isn’t, you probably not doing it right.

    • Tod

      Another misinformed statement. The business owner is required to pay payroll tax, social security tax on all REPORTED tips, of which all credit card tips are. About %80-90 of all tips are credit. There must be some kind of reported cash tip reported or the RESTAURANT will get audited and assume the STAFFS tax burden. So for every $100 tipped in credit, there is owed roughly $28 dollars in taxes paid by the restaurant. Plus now having to pick up %3 credit card fees incurred by the cashless transaction between the guest and the service staff. Since when is collecting between $15-$25 dollars an hour a crappy job? These are jobs people hold to pay their way through college (like I did), buy a house (like I did by saving my money), raise a family (like I do everyday). Is it a difficult career for both front and back? Yes. If it isn’t, you probably not doing it right.

  • Dan

    BTW, Starr may be an asshat but he is WAY too smart for this!

    • Jen B.

      Just so you know, we pay our taxes… They are removed from our pay, which is why many checks are VOID and we owe at the end of the year… No one is mentioning the fact that if your cc tips are givin in a bi-weekly paycheck, the owner not only is earning interest on those holdings, but in the case of small restaurants that everyone is crying about, using the tips for other purposes until payday… Infact that was a Neil Stein move…ask any of his ex employees what they had to go through to cash a check, or James employees for that matter.

  • KD

    considering that your staff is paid less then minimum wage, is offered no health care, is not entitled to paid sick days or vacation, it seems to me that the least you could do is cover the credit card charge.

  • Joe

    @ kd
    I’m sure you know this because you work for Vetri? Right? Well I did, and they actually offer heath care, to all employees, as well as 401K, vacation to all full time employees as well. Maybe you should get some information before you open your trap

  • Jeff B

    @KD, Why is it the least he could do?

    Regardless of what benefits are or aren’t offered – employees have a choice.

    They can choose to work for an employer or they can choose not to – if they choose to work under a set of given circumstances then the only thing the employer owes the employee is the fulfillment of those agreed upon terms, a safe work environment and respect.

  • Dave P

    Marc Vetri… you are a real F***ing scumbag. Your thought process is the reason that people are sinking financially in this struggling economy. Like you said yourself, you’re in a sweet spot. It would only hurt the small business owner and the chain restaurant corp. So why then, are you putting your worthless 2 cents into a problem that will not affect you. I’ll tell you what Marc, why don’t you swing on over my place, let me tie you to a chair and put a gun in your big fat mouth and watch as myself and my lawyer force you legally sign your wealth over to me in a court certified contract. Tell you what, after that, you come on over to “my” restaurant and i’ll give you a job waiting tables. Its the least I can do for you. Then, when your slaving over tables serving my patrons, making brutally low tips, we’ll see if you still feel the same way about me deducting credit card taxes from you.

  • Dan

    At Marc’s restaurants he pays a portion of a decent health care plan to anyone who works for him for more than 90 days, and a 401k after a year. Both kitchen workers, servers and bartenders. It is more than most restaurants in this city offer. I cannot say how altruistic Marc’s motives are, but these practices offer benefits to both the employee and the employer. The restaurant business is plagued by high turnover and absenteeism. Offering benefits reduces these problems. The Vetri organization is run by very smart businessmen who surely realize this.

    I have to say I am quite surprised that the bill in question did pass, however. It was clearly in favor of the worker, at the expense of the employer. Servers are in general disorganized and politically apathetic as a whole. It seems to be the opposite of how our political system typically works.

    If examined closely I see a few things happening here. Marc felt he was entitled to some sort of personal conversation with the Mayor or Councilman Kenney. He felt as a successful chef (a profession which has in recent years entered the realm of celebrity) a public forum was below him. Or he felt it was just easier to tweet, often seemingly without either understanding, or perhaps caring, how he would be perceived by many.

    As a chef, Marc almost certainly believes like all chefs that servers make too much money. A decent, though certainly not extravagant living can be made as a server. Servers considerably more money than line cooks. Especially at restaurants that Marc owns. However, at around 85-90 percent of that money is payed by the customer, not by the employer. An employer is only required to pay 2.83 an hour to tipped employees. Servers are the cheapest labor to any restaurant owner. Cheaper than dishwashers.

    However, with these wages, a high level of service is expected. Working as a server at a high-end restaurant requires a high level of knowledge both of beverage and food, as well as a personality. Mechanics must be learned to perform the job effectively while making it look effortless. It is skilled labor. Vetri would not hire a server who did not attain these skills through years of experience. The most difficult aspect of being a server is most definitely maintaining your cool while being treated rudely, and being condescended to–ignoring the snobbery of many guests. As server I have often smiled and nodded as a guest claimed their cocktail had too much vermouth, when it had not a drop, or failed to realize that a burgandy is made from pinot noir.

    If the gratuity system disappeared the level of service that diners expect at fine restaurants would disappear, and the cost of paying servers would be reflected in increased prices. Commenters who disparage servers simply reveal there own arrogance and ignorance. Many servers are slowly paying their way through school. Some are raising children. Many are trying to make it in the arts. A great number of them are simply intelligent fuckups. Some just love food and wine.

    Although I’ve digressed a bit Marc thinks servers make too much money, because they make more money than line cooks. However, it is the restaurants responsibility to pay their cooks, not the servers. From Marc’s “sweet spot” he could most likely pay his cooks more and still be profitable, but he chooses not to. Chefs often try to distract their line cooks from their poor pay by pointing at servers–making things adversarial. When chef/owners get together they boast about how little they pay their line cooks, and compare notes on skirting labor law.

  • matt

    As someone who has never been to Vetri, but would consider going, I’m thankful for the price listing. Now I know that for almost the same price I can get an off season plane ticket to Italy and that I probably wouldn’t spend it at the restaurant.

  • Tony

    This seems pretty short-sighted to me. My guess is that most restaurants will respond by allowing customers to pay for their bill with CC but not allow them to tip with CC. In the end, the servers will get far less, because people will end up paying less in cash than they would if they just added a standard 18-25% onto their CC tab. The servers should be glad that the CC option is available, allowing them to earn more in tips, and just accept the fact that there is a small cost for that option.

  • Joe K

    @Tony — People would leave more on CC tip than cash? You have any basis for this ridiculous assertion? What an asinine comment…. we’re just making up random reason’s why servers should be “glad” that they have what they have.

  • jay

    joe k, this is just an anecdote, not data, but I routinely pay a couple dollars, if not 5, more in tips to taxi drivers when I pay via credit card than when I pay via cash. Maybe it’s because of the guilt trips of how credit card payments take so long, maybe it’s because I don’t have to deal with the cash outlay, but I definitely do that.

  • Rocky

    It is not $45,000 a year for Marc Vetri and only $4 on a Saturday night for a bartender. It is the same figure. If it is costing Marc Vetri $45,000 a year now well then that was what it was costing his employees. Marc should include that fee in the price of dining in his successful restaurants. No one would notice.

  • Dave

    WOW, the server haters and the non tippers are a sorry lot of angry, self-loathing losers!!!!!!

    On a more important note, it is this Democrat mentality of MORE GOVERNMENT that keeps this city from moving forward at a faster pace. the business tax is the prime example of it.

    It’s too bad that the mentality is so deeply entrenched in Philly because the city could certainly use a taste of a Republican mayor. The crime issues are incredible here compared to other large cities.

  • Lynn Godmilow

    My husband and I always put our dinner on a credit card but pay our server cash. We have heard too many stories about serviers not getting their tips for a month or more or worse, the restaurant is in financial trouble and the servers never get their tips. We figure the way we do it, everyone wins.

  • Justin

    To those posting who blame people who use credit cards, I say that they are necessary in many situations. You can have 98% of my bill or 0% of my business. Simple as that.
    Also, I do try and tip with cash when possible. If an owner still takes the CC share out of cash tips, that in my opinion would be stealing from your employees.

  • Michael Phouts

    As a great tipper, I want to see the tip go to the server, but that’s not the reality. Servers tip out (give away, or share with other employees) their tips and some places even share or split tips (bartenders)

    Now, the argument is that the restaurant owner is a big meanie for trying to make the server pay for the business.
    Poor uninformed people… The restaurant owner makes food and drink and gets paid for it. When they take credit cards, they also PAY a percentage of that and its call “the cost of doing business.”

    HOWEVER… The restaurant owner gets NOTHING from the tip. The whole tip goes to the server BUT…the restaurant owner still has to pay 2 or 3 or MORE percentage points on the TIP ALSO!

    Having the deduction taken out of the tip is just as fair as having the percent taken from the total bill to the owner.
    Fair means equitable: Equal… regardless of who you apply it to. The owner pays, why shouldn’t the server?

    If you have a problem with it, TIP IN CASH! I do it all the time. (Tax evasion anyone?)

    In fact, pay your whole bill in cash. That way, you will actually HELP the restaurant you like, you’ll help the server, and the credit card company won’t be able to track where you eat and what you drink.

    Why do you think you get junk mail? Because the credit card company sells your purchasing history!

    Long story short “Get your hand outta my pocket!” The government has no right or place to tell a business how to run their business. If you don’t like working there, get another job. Don’t like the practice of a business? DON’T SHOP THERE! It’s called the free market system.

    Support who you like, leave the others to fail without your hard earned money.
    Marc Vitri is the man and is right. Why should he pay the server, cover the cost of uniforms, make schedule, server dinner, AND PAY 3% OF THEIR TIP? Money that he will never see?

    That’s like paying the taxes of other people. But enough about this silly election.

    Let you heart decide, but if you don’t like it, stay away and go eat somewhere else. As for me.. I’m going to eat at Vetri and pay A LOT for it. Wine too… and IF… the server is good, I’ll tip in cash. Hell, when the foods good, I even send tips to the kitchen. Sometimes we even ask the chef to join us for a glass of wine, but that’s just me, I could be wrong.
    Michael Phouts
    Pres. Delaware Valley Epicurean Society
    Wine Food and the Pursuit of Happiness.

  • sue

    So much has been written both pro and con this bill, I doubt anyone will get this far – but for all the people who don’t understand what’s happening, restaurant owners are not stealing any money from the servers. There are quite a few charges on every credit card statement each month. One of the charges is the percentage the credit card company attaches to every tip on the left on a credit card. The server gets their tip. It should not be the restaurant’s financial responsibility to pay the fee charged to leave a tip on the credit card. If the people who are so very outraged by this practice really care that much, they should make it a point to leave their tips in cash and this entire dialogue would be a moot point. Do not leave tips on credit cards! Period. Leave all tips in cash. Better yet, leave all payments in cash. It will help keep the cost of doing business down, which will be passed on to the consumer because the restaurant operators will not have to raise their prices as much or as often if they have less costs associated with running their restaurants. It’s all a numbers game. A certain percentage for rent, a certain percentage for cost of goods, a certain percentage for payroll, a certain percentage for insurance, etc etc etc. If we can keep these costs in line or keep them from constantly going up, we can control the cost of your meal. It’s not that complicated. Stop charging your meals and tips!!!!! Cash rules and it comes back to you in savings on the cost of the meal. Trust me!!!

  • Jeff Marc Jeff Brad

    You folks are missing a few things about how Vetri Resaturant Group conducts their business.

    Save your talk about leaving the credit card tip in cash unless you’re sitting at the bar. Vetri’s restaurants are house pooled. All the cash is collected from the closing manager at the end of the shift and paid through a paycheck every two weeks, it ALL gets taxed, with the exception being the bar, who take their cash and tips and receive their credit card tips that night, but still claim how much they make, and are taxed on their paycheck. They also make 2.83/hr.

    The tip-outs are not broken down for the employees to see who is getting what, you are told to go away if you inquire. You just receive an amount for that night with your pay stub.

    The Back of House employees are paid shift pay, and required to come in up to four hours prior to their shift — Unpaid. As bonus the chef/owners will refuse to give a reference of employment until they’ve sacrificed for one year.

    Hope this info can inform some of the people who are making comments on this site, and help make a little more sense to the casual observer, or hobby expert.

    Also, some useful research on what “liquidity” is, and why it’s a good idea to have a 4013c tax shelter will also be helpful.

    Wake up cattle.