I earn a living wage at a bar so I don't have to rely on tips. I'll never work any other way.


I am a proud Salvadoran who was raised in New York and relocated to the Raleigh, North Carolina area 16 years ago. I had the opportunity to join RBF, Your Authentic Champagne Bar about eight months ago as one of their first employees. My role at the bar involves serving and bartending, and I was initially attracted to it because of its dedication to empowering women. RBF boasts a diverse staff of 17 members, with 14 of them being women from various races, ages, genders, sexualities, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

One aspect that sets RBF apart from other establishments is its unique approach to employee compensation. Instead of relying primarily on tips, the bar ensures that all employees receive a living wage. This means that we receive a consistent income, which helps alleviate the constant stress associated with relying solely on tips. Currently, the county living wage is set at $18 per hour, and this provides a sense of stability for all the staff. Though tipping is not required or necessary, customers are welcome to tip if they wish. It's worth noting that our living wage model is clearly explained and prominently displayed on our menus, website, and social media platforms.

Despite the living wage model, many patrons still choose to tip, typically around 10%, or by rounding up the bill. Any tips received are shared equally among all staff members. This system fosters a cooperative and supportive atmosphere among us. Unlike traditional establishments, there is no competition to serve a specific customer in hopes of receiving a larger tip. Instead, we prioritize teamwork and assisting one another, knowing that regardless, we will leave with our earned wage. This creates a more harmonious and collaborative environment for both employees and customers.

The living wage model and RBF's commitment to fair compensation have resonated with many customers who are aware of our approach. They not only appreciate the concept but also actively choose to visit our bar because of it. We have received positive feedback from customers who see our commitment to providing a living wage as a cool and commendable concept. Additionally, there seems to be strong community support for establishments that adopt living wage models, as they are still relatively uncommon in the industry.

Setting prices for our menu items based on the living wage model is not an exact science since there are only a few bars and restaurants that have implemented this approach. To determine pricing, Tiffany Welton, the owner of RBF, reviews comparable restaurant prices and uses them as a baseline. For example, if a similar wine is priced at $13 in another establishment, she may price our equivalent wine at $14 to account for the higher wage costs. To reduce expenses and limit waste, we make smaller food inventory orders.

Having experienced the benefits of a living wage model, I can confidently say that I will never go back to traditional compensation. The reduced stress and competitiveness among colleagues have fostered an environment of friendship and mutual support. RBF is filled with individuals who genuinely enjoy their work, and I am grateful to be part of such a positive and empowering environment.  

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