OP-ED // On Raising Prices, Moving Away From Tipping and Paying Staff More

Agrius by Fol Epi | Photo: Supplied

Victoria restaurateur/baker Clif Leir shared some thoughts with Islandist on the operational changes coming to his award-winning Fol Epi and Agrius eateries.

The situation our industry is facing right now is unprecedented. After running and operating organic food service businesses in Victoria for 20 years, we are now facing our most complex challenge.

Our business model has always been to rely on the best quality, locally grown organic ingredients. We strive to keep our food accessible and we pride ourselves in providing high quality daily staples that we hope contribute to the well-being of our community. We also aim to provide stimulating and engaging employment, while paying our employees decent living wages and giving them a great work/life balance.

Producing food with great ingredients and paying our staff appropriately comes at a cost. We believe that we have to support and invest in our local food economy if we want to keep it alive and healthy.

We feel it is our duty in this time of crisis to purchase from our neighbours and local businesses as this is what will better our local economy.

We feel the same way about supporting our staff. We’ve decided to pay our staff better (wages really well deserved…) considering all the risks involved and all the efforts they put in day in and day out. Our employees are the foundation of our business. We have the most amazing staff and they make it all happen — without them our operation is pretty lifeless.

We’ve made some significant changes in order to remain viable as a business. We increased safety and sanitation procedures, reduced traffic, etc. to ensure the safety of our staff and our customers.

All of these measures also come at a cost.

The Government support programs have not helped us much. After various exemptions, wages subsidies that were touted at 75% for weeks have ended up being closer to 30% in our case. This comes after we have had to carry that expense several weeks before seeing any of it back, at a time when we really do not have the financial latitude to do so.

We are falling behind with suppliers, tax remittances….We have decided to raise our prices in order to practice business according to our beliefs and to better support our staff and suppliers.

We are moving away from the tipping system that has been problematic for so long. Many other areas of the world have already done this and we feel now is the best time to do this here as well.

You don’t need to tip, just be nice; it’s all good. It’s a great, simple system. In fact, it’s how we buy most things! Our staff will still offer the same great service.

Please frequent us as much as you can. Tell your friends and family!

We feed a city and support the local economy, but we can’t do it without you.

We feel strongly that everyone should have access to good quality food. We are also very understanding of limited budgets (even for necessities like groceries) and hope our food can still be a regular part of your life.

Thank you for your love and support.

Fol Epi and Agrius.

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