These are the Charlotte restaurants paying $15/hour or more.

Editor’s note: If your restaurant is participating in this initiative of paying staff at least $15 an hour, email us details at

A story on the grassroots efforts of several local chefs to help increase restaurant pay spurred an outpouring of interest in the restaurants around Charlotte that are offering its staff wages of at least $15 per hour. Sam Hart, Sam Diminich and Rob Clement came together on the Chefs of Charlotte Facebook page to start demanding a liveable wage for all restaurant workers and that rally cry is being heard.

Across town, the 5th Street Group has been working on another incentive program for employees that they are hoping will become the industry standard. Jamie Lynch, Patrick Whalen and Alejandro Torio, wanted to change how they approach business across their restaurants, including 5Church Charlotte, Le Belle Helene and Sophia’s Lounge in Charlotte. So they hit the spreadsheets, got creative and developed the Tip the Kitchen initiative.

Local chefs unite to help increase restaurant worker pay by calling out unfair wages

Whalen breaks down all of the details on his Twitter feed, but the goal is to raise the wages of the back of the house staff without sacrificing the front of the house staff’s income, without increasing prices for customers and without significantly impacting management’s bottom line.

Sounds impossible, but the group is several weeks into implementing their plan and it is working. In fact, in the first 14 days, between 5Church Charlotte, 5Church Charleston and Tempest in Charleston the total kitchen gratuity was $25,007.10.

Here’s what happened after Charlotte restaurateurs started paying a living wage.

Here are some of the details:

  • Participation is 100% optional and the program is explained both in the menu as well as by the server.

  • Guests receive a check with two tip lines — one for the front of the house and one for the back of the house. For the sake of ease, if a customer wants to tip 20% and divide that tip 10% to the front of the house and 10% to the back of the house, management provides a 12% stop gap to raise the front of the house tip to 22%. That means no one is taking anyone else’s tips and the customer isn’t paying any more.

  • Ownership matches up to $500 per day of back of the house tips as an incentive to share costs with guests and the pool of money collected each day is split among everyone from dishwashers to sous chefs.

“Quite honestly we underpaid our staff when we first opened — we didn’t have the business or cash flow but we have learned and grown as a group. Luckily for us, we are blessed to have a beautiful mind like Patrick who could figure out how we can change our approach to business and not pass it along to guests,” Lynch said. “Our goal is to impact the industry as a whole. You don’t have to be a big restaurant group for this to work. We are working on the data to support mom and pop shops and small chef-driven joints doing this.”

The 5th Street Group is increasing its operating expenses by 3% to implement this initiative and believes that staff retention, productivity, morale and less waste will offset at least 2% of that investment.

In addition to Tip the Kitchen, The 5th Street Group has also committed to paying wages of at least $15/hr. We compiled a list of other Charlotte restaurants committing to this wage:

5Church Charlotte

127 N Tryon St. #8

Bao and Broth

1115 North Brevard Street, Suit #5

Counter CLT

2200 Thrift Road

Craft Tasting Room and Growler Shop

1320 S Church St #100

The Dunavant

2322 Dunavant St. Suite #200

Le Belle Helene

300 S Tryon St

(opening to the public in May)

Lincoln Street Kitchen & Cocktails

1320 S Church St. Suite 400


Location varies

Sophia’s Lounge

127 N Tryon St Suite D

Your Farms Your Table


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