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How is the service charge money used?

Service charge monies are used exclusively for employee wages and benefits. We pay all hourly employees a fixed rate of pay per hour, which provides them with a more stable and predictable form of compensation and insulates them from the seasonal business swings we experience throughout the year.

Each hourly position has a pay scale that reflects each employee’s value and longevity. This creates the opportunity for growth and advancement (and motivation to excel) which in turn translates into a strong team culture and guest experience.

Why did you remove the tip line from the credit card slip?

To eliminate any confusion as to whether a further tip is expected.

Won’t the quality of service suffer?

We certainly hope not. Every staff member, from dishwasher to cook, bartender to server, is involved in serving our guests.  If the dish or cocktail you order comes to the table carefully prepared and in timely fashion, that’s good service, service that results from the efforts of the entire staff.

We believe in what Danny Meyer calls “enlightened hospitality” – that providing good service is its own reward.  We want our staff to provide the best possible service, but we want the motivation to provide this great service to come not from the hope of a big tip but rather from pride in a job well done.

Why did you choose to charge 20% instead of some other amount?

The service charge percentage is based on the average gratuity at Comal since opening in 2012. It’s also worth noting that it’s long been common practice at Comal and most restaurants in general to charge a fixed service charge (usually 20%) for parties of six or more. The 15% service charge at Comal Next Door Berkeley is based on the average gratuity on in-house and to-go orders placed directly with us.

Why don’t you just raise your prices and eliminate the service charge?

We considered doing so, and still, hope to do so sooner than later.  But it’s a difficult thing to do in a competitive marketplace where the vast majority of restaurants price their menus based on the assumption that their service staff will make a significant portion of their compensation from tips.  As more restaurants move to a service charge in lieu of tip (which we believe will happen in the coming months and years), the circumstances will be more favorable to taking this additional step.

Since we are doing something new in a price-sensitive market, we need to keep our overall menu pricing structure similar to the many restaurants in Berkeley and beyond.

It’s important to remember that, regardless of whether we accept tips, charge a service charge or move to “all-in pricing”, the ultimate average cost to the customer will remain roughly the same.