Why would Ritual, a new eatery in Vancouver’s West End neighbourhood, decide to shun tipping and pay every server and kitchen worker equally?

According to owner Nevada Cope, the answer is simple: “I just decided it was a really good idea to pay everyone what they’re worth.”

At Ritual, what they’re worth is a living wage, defined as the amount workers in a given area need to afford living expenses.

In Metro Vancouver, it’s about $21, and that’s what everyone at Cope’s eatery takes home, including dishwashers.

“A lot of the times in the kitchen you don’t get paid what you should be getting paid, so it was really important for me to do this,” said Cope, who also cooks at the restaurant. “Everyone is on the same playing field.”

Fair treatment for kitchen staff, who usually make very little in tips compared to servers, is just one benefit to the system, according to Cope. Another is extra stability for servers.

“They want a job that’s kind of normal. Like, they know these are their hours, this is what they’re getting paid, and it’s not based on your tips.”

The business model does necessitate higher prices for the food – described as “eclectic American” cuisine – but Cope said the increase isn’t as much as you might expect. Items on the dinner menu range from $12 to $27, which Cope estimates is about 10 per cent more than they would cost otherwise.

And for that, patrons can forget about tipping. Repeat customer Drew Carmichael said he welcomes the change.

“I remember the first time I came in and looked at the board and saw the prices. But then after I realized, OK, this already includes a tip? And the food is fantastic… I think it’s great,” Carmichael said.

There are signs discouraging tipping, but Cope said some patrons still feel uncomfortable with the concept. The restaurant’s policy is to collect any extra money that’s left on the table and give it to local HIV/AIDS charity A Loving Spoonful.

“That would be considered a donation and then we would put that into our donation fund, and then four times a year we will donate that,” Cope said.

The no-tipping concept is new to Vancouver, but Ritual isn’t the first B.C. restaurant to try it out. Smoke ‘N Water, in the Vancouver Island community of Parksville, introduced a similar business model in 2014, but abandoned it just three months after opening.

Cope is confident it will be more successful at Ritual, located on Denman Street in the heart of the West End.

“We’re maybe a little more progressive here,” she said.

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Shannon Paterson