There’s a new restaurant in Vancouver’s West End that is operating under a unique concept: there is no tipping.
Tipping is standard practice at any restaurant that involves table service, and even some that do not. It’s standard to expect to tip anywhere between 10-20% on top of your bill every time you go out to eat. The reason for this is that servers often make minimum wage, but tipping helps to make their jobs much more lucrative. The idea is that the better the service, the better the tip–so the server has to work for that upgrade, and ideally gets rewarded for doing so.
At Ritual, employees are paid “a living wage” and there is no tipping. Menu prices are consequently a little higher than you might expect from a similar type of restaurant.
The space is light and very charming. The walls are whitewashed, and there are big windows, making it feel airy. Most of the horizontal surfaces, from floor to bar to tabletop are made of reclaimed wood, giving the space character and the feeling that it’s actually been there a lot longer than 2 months. Chef/Owner Nevada Cope spent 8 months renovating the space on Denman near Davie St, and put a great deal of “sweat equity” into the space. It’s well-designed. Nooks and crannies that may have been wasted space have been transformed into seating and bar space.
Cope, previously Executive Chef at the Italian Cultural Centre, takes on a light-hearted farm-to-table approach to her menu. The menu is not extensive, but given that it’s a one-chef operation, that’s not a huge deal.
There are basically 4-5 brunch options, including Huevos Rancheros, a daily benny selection, your standard breakfast (bacon, eggs, toast) and the Cornbread Waffle Sandwich. The day we were there, they also had a brioche french toast.
There were 3 of us for brunch that day, my son and I and my friend Lori, who is a freelance writer, and for whom Ritual has become a new neighbourhood favorite.
Lori ordered The Daily Benny, and it was well done. It came packed with veggies, and the english muffins were homemade. Almost everything here is made in-house, including the hollandaise, which was lemony and bright, and not too thick. The eggs were perfectly poached, with a runny yolk.
The benny came with these “Tater Twinkies.” A kind of potato croquette, they are stuffed with cheese in the middle and then deep-fried. I see them becoming famous very, very soon. They are the most comforting of comfort foods.
Michael had the Cornbread Waffle Sandwich, one of the more whimsical menu items. Waffles made with a cornbread batter, sandwiched in between was chicken, bacon, avocado and a cranberry dressing. It was as if Christmas had a brunch baby, and it was a lovely mix of textures and flavours. The sprout’s eyes bugged out at his first bite, which is always a good sign.
I opted for the Brioche French Toast. Three massive slabs of brioche arrived, swimming in berries, whipped cream, a honey butter, and maple syrup. The plate was also kissed with a berry gastrique that was really tasty.
Generally speaking, the prices are a little higher here, but the portion sizes were also quite large. Of the three of us, I think only Lori was able to actually finish her plate, and I think it might have been a struggle for her to do so (and a testament to how delicious the egg dish was).
Service was good and friendly, but not outstanding. There was just one server on, but the restaurant was not full–there were probably about 4-5 tables in the place.
So, while I love the idea of a “no tipping” restaurant, I’m not sure it’s something that is going to catch on and become a thing in this city. I asked one of my students, Kate, who is a server, for her thoughts on a no-tipping/living wage restaurant, and she said she could still make more on a good night in tips than a “living wage” can pay her, so she’d rather stick with the old way of doing things.
The food was good, and the place is charming. But I might make portion sizes a little smaller and make the prices a little lower. I fear that they will find it challenging to maintain an audience long-term with prices that average $20 and up per plate, even if that does include tip.
774 Denman Street
Open for brunch Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-3pm