WATERBURY – With the state’s unemployment rate at dangerously low numbers, many Vermont restaurants are finding it difficult to find enough employees to stay open. Now some local eateries are getting creative and letting diners do some of the work in exchange for discounts on their meals. Options such as cooking your own food, or serving a few of the other patrons can bring your final tab down as much as 50%.
“It’s working out wonderfully,” said Tipper Goode, owner of The Bitter Endive in Waterbury. “We offer several choices for helping out at the restaurant, and most diners are really getting into it. It builds community, and gives our customers a better appreciation for the work that goes into running a place like the Endive.”
Goode greets diners when they walk in, and explains the choices to them in person. Customers then have the option of:
1) Serving a meal to the next table
2) Cooking their own meal in the kitchen
3) Washing their own dishes plus the dishes for one other table
4) Performing for the other customers (anything except “Memories” from Cats is allowed)
“Yeah, it was weird at first,” says regular Endive patron Anya Ohne, “but it’s actually kind of fun now. I get a half-priced meal, and while I’m waiting for my food I grab a pad and a pencil and go around taking orders from other tables. I get to meet people, find out stuff about them like their food allergies, and then I get to sit down and enjoy the food that my husband made in the kitchen that my kids serve to me.”
Ohne’s children say they are less pleased with the arrangement as their mother is not a good tipper, but Ohne is adamant that poor tipping will teach her elementary school kids to provide better service in the future.