Updated Wed, Sep 5, 2012 7:45 am
Teri Combs has been coming to Casa Nueva in Athens about three times a month for almost 10 years. But for the first time ever, she can't tip the staff who has become so familiar to her.
Starting Saturday, the restaurant changed its original policy of pooling tips to not accepting any tips, in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act, a government action which Combs believes goes too far.
"My original, initial thought was 'wow. So the governments trying to tell them how they're going to do their business, so they now have to redo their menus; extra cost for them. They now have to change the way that they do business'," she said. "So for me, it's kind of the government stepping in telling a business that's working fine, you're not going to do it this way anymore."
However, staff paychecks will remain about the same as they will be given slightly hourly wages.
Leslie Schaller, Business Director at Casa, says the real issue is for the restaurant to retain it's unique character that keeps regulars like Combs returning, while still following the provisions of the act.
"With this change, or change of interpretation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, we had to adapt and figure out how to remain true to our core values of equity, but still make sure that we're complying with the law," said Schaller.
To make up for the tip money, prices were raised anywhere from $.50 to $1.25 per item.
For example, the price of the popular "Morning in the Hills" breakfast option went from $4.00 to $4.75.
Greg Lyle, a Casa employee, says that so far, this new method is going smoothly.
"I was scared at first, because I wasn't really sure how we were going to implement coming up with the extra income that the tips used to supply us, but it seems to be going OK," said Lyle.
From now on, if any tips are given at Casa staff, the money will go straight to charity.
But Combs insists that even though the policy's changed, she won't say goodbye her favorite local restaurant anytime soon.
"I like the way that Casa's responded. I think they responded in a very positive way. I still support Casa 100 percent," she said.