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Well known dining chain considering getting rid of automatic tip charges
Some servers worried it can cause ripple effect
By: Ruben Veloz
EL PASO, Texas--One of the country's biggest dining chains is considering getting rid of automatic gratuities.
This would do away with a policy many restaurants put in place so servers wouldn't get stiffed on large tabs servers with eight or more guests at a table.
Some workers fear the policy could lead to a ripple effect all over the country.
Like many waiters and waitresses, Chris Cairns makes most of his living off of his tips.
He's paid $2.13 an hour working as a server at a Village Inn in west El Paso.
That's why he said treating his customers with great service is a must.
"I make on a good day at least $100, usually in a night, and on a bad day I walked out with $20 before in like 8 or 9 hours," said Cairns.
Darden restaurants, which owns and operates 2,100 restaurants such as Olive Garden, Red Lobster, LongHorn Steakhouse and others, is considering making the change.
The company wants to replace automatic gratuities for large parties, and leave the tip line blank for customers to fill in.
It's a practice Cairns is not in favor of.
"I know that I served really hard on a lot of tables," said Cairns. "Big tables especially, and sometimes if we didn't have a gratuity they wouldn't tip us at all so I would be pretty upset, and I know a lot of servers would be to."
Darden is considering the change in their policy after the IRS clarified a rule that forces restaurants to classify tips as wages.
The IRS says servers shouldn't have a problem if they report 100 percent of their tips, but there are some servers that don't.
"By them not doing it, it enables them to show proof of their income," said Village Inn manager Sergio Serna.
So far Cairnes has not heard of his restaurant getting rid of automatic gratuities, but said if he did work at those big chain restaurants he would consider finding another job.
"I make other tips, luckily, but if it was another restaurant where I had a lot of bigger parties, then definitely, that's a huge part of our income," said Cairns.
So far about 100 restaurants have dropped the practice of automatic gratuities.
It's unknown if any of them are in Texas.
The IRS said it plans to enforce their policy starting next year.