CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A restaurant group is looking to fix the wage gap between the service staff and back-of-the-house staff.


What You Need To Know

Tip the Kitchen aims to close the wage gap in the restaurant industry

The Fifth Street Group has raised more than one million dollars for their employees who work in the back of the house

Owners say they hope it changes the hospitality industry


The Fifth Street Group, which owns restaurants in Charlotte, Charleston and Nashville, is now including an extra tip line on their checks.

People can now tip those who work in the kitchen, like line cooks, prep cooks, pastry chefs and more.

Since they started this initiative in April of 2021, their guests have tipped more than $550,000.

The restaurant group matched that number to bring it to a total of $1 million raised.

That number keeps growing as this is a continual effort.

Partner and Chef Jamie Lynch says it’s the future of the hospitality industry.

"We believe through this initiative, partnering with our guests, it will attract better employees, incentivize them to consider hospitality as a viable career choice,” Lynch said. "So some of our line cooks and prep cooks are making almost $45,000 to $50,000 a year.”

The restaurant group is matching tips up to $500 per day, per restaurant.

So how exactly does it work?

Let’s say one of their locations makes $2,000 in tips for the day for those who work in the back-of-the-house. They then match up to $500, bringing the total to $2,500 for the day. This is then split evenly between all kitchen staff.

The starting minimum wage for their kitchen staff is $15 an hour. So this, plus tips, is allowing employees to bring home extra cash they wouldn’t be otherwise.

One of those employees is Rachel McMillion, a pastry chef at La Belle Helene in Uptown Charlotte.

She started work in the restaurant industry in 2018 and says she used to have to work 2-3 jobs to make ends meet.

Now, she doesn’t have to.

“It helps me close that wage gap to help support my family,” she said.

Lynch says so far, they've seen a decrease in staff turnover.

He adds that these tips are separate from the tips people leave for servers.

And to avoid their service staff getting a smaller tip, they put what he calls a “stop gap” into place.

“So let’s a say a guest leaves a 15% tip for the server and $10 for the back of the house. We’ll match that $10 on that check so it’s $20 for the back,” he said. "And then we’ll raise the percentage of that check for the server to 21%, whatever that number is, so they make 21% off that table."

He says they could pay their back-of-the-house staff more per hour, but then they would have to raise their costs across their menus.

Lynch said they don’t want to price their customers out of being able to afford their restaurant.

By allowing people to tip the kitchen, they can keep their menu prices the same.