Waikiki Eatery Charges 'Non-English Speaking Guests' Gratuity

Keoni By Keo's Says Many Foreign Travelers Unaware Of Tipping Practice

 UPDATED 10:28 PM HST Jan 31, 2011
HONOLULU -

A Waikiki restaurant is causing a stir with the fine print on its menu and now the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission may be making an inquiry.

A restaurant spokeswoman said 99 percent of its customers are tourists.

The fine print on the menu reads, "A 15 percent gratuity will be added to your check for parties of six or more and for non-English speaking guests."

The restaurant told KITV4 News its customer base includes many international travelers who, by custom, do not tip.

The restaurant said IRS administrative rules require the restaurant to consider 8 percent of its total sales as tips. So, waiters must pay taxes accordingly, even on tips they often do not receive.

The restaurant said it is merely trying to help and keep its wait staff.

"I don't think it's fair. I think with a mixed culture we've got today, they should accommodate everybody," Montana visitor Bryce Richards said.

The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission said Monday it has not received complaints about the practice.

Executive Director Bill Hoshijo said the law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, including gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, color, religion ancestry or disability.

Hoshijo could not talk specifically about the restaurant, but said the language on the menu that refers to non-English speaking customers could be a problem.

?Discrimination based on language is ancestry discrimination,? Hoshijo said.

He added the commission may also have to inquire about the practice of charging non-English speaking guests the 15 percent gratuity.

?Places of public accommodation can come up with different ways to address those concerns that are non-discriminatory,? Hoshijo said.

Hoshijo said the commission will likely start with a letter to the restaurant inquiring about the practice. And he said it is likely they will investigate the practice at all restaurants.

Keoni by Keo's and several other restaurants said most restaurants automatically add a gratuity, but most don't post it on their menus.

Keoni by Keo?s said the gratuity charge is printed in red on the customer?s check and is explained when the customer pays at the register.

The restaurant said if the customer does not want to pay the gratuity, then they simply don?t.

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