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Servers At a Popular L.A. Restaurant File Class-Action Lawsuit Alleging ‘Service Fee’ Should Be Paid Out As Tips

Under their current model, the report shares that some servers at certain Jon & Vinny locations make up to $42 an hour, which is $26.50 more an hour than the current minimum wage in Los Angeles.

2:27 PM PDT on June 21, 2023

Jon & Vinny's, the successful restaurant mini-empire behind of one of L.A.'s most ordered fusilli a la vodka dishes, is now the subject of a lawsuit filed by their servers. The restaurant's waiters allege that the 18% service fee that is automatically added to all their checks should be paid out to them. However, owners and partners Jon Shook, Vinny Dotolo, and Helen Johannesen say that they have always been transparent to guests about the service fee and that it was never considered a gratuity. Instead, this fee is distributed to all hourly employees, including dishwashers, line cooks, servers, and even the "person who buys produce at the farmers market."

A new report published today by the L.A. Times food section goes into detail of the complex case.

Some employees have complained that the service fee is misleading, as customers may assume that it is a gratuity for the service staff. In addition, the service fee has resulted in lower tips for servers, who typically rely on tips as part of their take-home wages.

The lawsuit is still pending but has raised important questions about using service fees in the restaurant industry. Do service fees constitute gratuities? Should they be distributed to all hourly employees, or should they be reserved for the service staff? These are questions that will need to be answered by the courts.

In the meantime, the lawsuit against Jon & Vinny's has put a spotlight on the issue of service fees and their impact on restaurant workers. The service fee model is not unique to Jon & Vinny's. Other restaurants in Los Angeles and across the country have adopted similar models.

This could have implications for other restaurants that use service fees and become a type of landmark case for the service industry. Under their current model, the report shares that some servers at certain Jon & Vinny locations make up to $42 an hour, which is $26.50 more an hour than the current minimum wage in Los Angeles.

Service fees are complex, and there is no easy answer. The courts will need to weigh restaurant owners, employees, and customers' competing interests to reach a decision.

The text does not provide specific details about the lawsuit, such as the amount of damages the plaintiffs seek. However, the lawsuit is likely to impact the restaurant industry significantly, as it could set a precedent for how service fees are treated in the future.

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