One of our favourite hidden bars in Toronto has opened its doors again this winter, and things are running a bit differently there these days. The Cloak Bar, which is located under Marben Restaurant and is accessible through a quick phone call, has been on a no-tipping business model since September 2020.
For those unfamiliar, the Cloak Bar‘s cocktail menu includes spins on the classic Old Fashioned (say hello to the Reverse Old Fashioned), fresh seasons in a drink like Pushing Daisies, and for those who love mezcal, the Highland Manners.
It also has a food menu that includes small bites like oysters, to their more-filling Rodie Burger.
According to Marben, while it has been in operation for almost 15 years, back during the first year of the pandemic, both Marben and The Cloak Bar moved to the no-tipping model, “building a structure of professionalism, dependability and transparency.”
This means, all the menu items’ prices reflect the total cost of dining.
“This allows our team to plan for their futures, start a family, buy a house, and hopefully achieve a healthy work-life balance,” states Marben’s website. “We ask guests to please not tip above the price that appears on your bill, as the hospitality is included. You can rest assured, knowing that your server — along with all staff in the dining room and the kitchen — are being fairly compensated for their work as career-focused professionals.”
Chris Locke, Executive Chef of Marben Restaurant and The Cloak Bar, told Curiocity that the response from guests has been very positive and supportive since they implemented the new model.
“For our team, we are able to offer stable income during such uncertain times. The team appreciates having a reliable/ predictable income, and being able to avoid the toxicity that can accompany the tipping industry,” Locke said. “We offer a transparent pay structure so they see exactly how to earn raises and promotions within the restaurant while building on their skills in the industry.”
Marben and The Cloak Bar are among several restaurants in Toronto that have eliminated tipping.
Locke said that the act of tipping is rooted in archaic practices and enforces the exploitation of people, placing the responsibility to compensate employees in the hands of the guest.
“The world is a very different place now than it was even 2 years ago and everybody is having to rethink their business model. Hospitality is one of the only industries where employees rely on tips to make up their income. It only takes looking at every other industry to realize how it can be different and successful,” he added.
If you’re wondering, the average cocktail at The Cloak Bar is around $19. And that includes everything.
And for others who may follow Locke’s footsteps, he said it takes some planning but works.
“It’s the right thing to do, but it takes careful planning and execution. Be sympathetic with all stakeholders and take their feedback and concerns seriously.”
The Cloak Bar and Marben Restaurant are located at 488 Wellington St West.