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Wisconsin diner staff not allowed tips but get attractive wage

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DELTA, WI-- Since 2003, a little Wisconsin diner has been welcoming customers, but in the last five years they have not been required to leave a tip.

Delta Diner changed their tip policy and raised its employee's wages in an attempt to attract the workforce and provide a livable wage.

"Back in 2016, we embraced a non-restaurant model for funding our payroll and our staff," said founder Todd Boucher.

That payroll change for the 24 employees meant they got a starting wage of $15 an hour.

Wisconsin's current hourly wages for tipped restaurant employees sit at $2.33.

This new wage is even higher than the national average for waiters and waitresses at $11.42 an hour.

They made the change because they didn't believe the state's hourly wage for tipped employees was enough to live off of.

"Basically, for 13 years there was a bit of a conflict because we're about transparency, we're about making socially conscious decisions," said Boucher. "What's good for the community, what's good for our community base, what are the right things to do."

Wisconsin economic experts say this trend of increasing wages could attract more to the workforce and provide better living experiences.

"It can reduce your stress level, like where the next paycheck will come," said Dr. Sakib Mahmud a Sustainable Management Economics Professor at UW-Superior. "How it will come, if there's a living wage there's less stress, productivity will go up."

Delta Diner founders aim to provide livable wages but also making up for what small business owners can't provide, like health insurance benefits.

"What we can do is on a compensation level people are being paid an amount where they at least have the opportunity to look at insurance in the open market," Boucher said.

Any tips towards the restaurant from customers get donated to the community.

For example, shelters, food banks, and frequent customers in need of help have benefited from the tips.

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Emma Quinn

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