Initiative 82, which D.C. residents voted to pass last November, is finally kicking in. However, the transition has proven confusing for consumers who are suddenly experiencing new service fees and higher prices.
“If I'm being honest, it's been a little chaotic,” said Washingtonian food editor Jessica Sidman. “Everyone is trying to navigate this new reality, which will eventually require restaurants to reconfigure their business models.”
I-82 is phasing out the tipped minimum wage over the next few years. By 2027, employers will have to pay waged employees equal to D.C.’s minimum wage ($16.10/hour), regardless of tips. The first jump hit on May 1, bumping tipped minimum wage to $6/hr; the next one is on July 1.
Service charges can range anywhere from 3% to over 20% of your meal price and are different from a tip. Service charges go towards covering restaurant costs (which can include wages and staff insurance), not directly to your server.
So, do you tip on top of that? Sidman says, “If the service fee is 20%, there’s no expectation that you tip extra, even if there's a tip line.” But if the service fee is lower, like 10%, Sidman says “My personal rule of thumb is I would normally tip 20%. So if there's a 10% service fee, I would do a 10% tip.”
Service charge policy at Elle in Mt. Pleasant. (Kaela Cote-Stemmermann/City Cast DC)
Now, there is a new bill coming down the pipeline that will dive deeper into the implementation of the initiative, specifically if it should be sped up. If you have skin in the game, the virtual public hearing for it is happening today at 10 a.m. Hop to!
Still confused about how to tip? Sidman breaks it down in detail on yesterday's City Cast DC episode.