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Updated: April 26, 2021 manufacturing excellence awards

Manufacturing Awards: Redemption Rock repurposes the tipping model

Photo | Courtesy of Redemption Rock Brewing Co.

In more ways than one, Redemption Rock Brewing Co., located on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester, is not like other craft breweries.

For one, while minimalism remains in vogue among the aesthetically minded, Redemption Rock is colorful, known for its bright, multi-colored murals on-site, as well as its rotating growler labels designed by local artists.

And for two, it’s also a certified benefit corporation – the first craft brewer in the region to achieve the certification. In many ways, the B-corp status makes official what Co-founder and CEO Danielle Babineau said was a goal from the start: to be a purpose-driven, impactful business.

“At a basic legal level, it just means that you have a mission besides just creating profit,” she said.

One way Redemption pursues this is through an aspect of business that may take some by surprise: its payroll.

In the service industry in the United States, tipping servers is undeniably the norm, an added on cost most customers expect to pay when purchasing food and drinks at restaurants and taprooms. It’s so common servers have their own, separate – and much lower – minimum wage, because tips are expected to make up, generally, most of their wages. But this isn’t the case at Redemption.

“We were never super comfortable and never really liked the idea of the tips model for the taproom,” Babineau said of herself and her three co-founders, all friends from college. She explained it seemed unfair to both put that burden on customers and to expect servers to base their income on interactions with patrons.

Instead, Redemption pays its staff what the company describes as a fair wage, without the expectation customers would be footing the rest of their compensation through tipping. The challenge, however, was customers were so used to tipping they felt uncomfortable forgoing the exchange.

The solution Redemption found, Babineau said, was setting up a system wherein the company accepts cash tips, which are then used as donations to area nonprofits. Every month, the nonprofit benefiting from the collections changes.

“After the first two or three months, we really had to book out the entire year because we had so many people approaching us and asking [to be involved],” Babineau said.

For April, the benefiting nonprofit is the Greater Worcester Land Trust.

With this collaboration, everyone seems to win. Redemption partners with nonprofits, customers know their donations are going to a good place, and staff know what they will be making from pay period to pay period.

And Redemption, at the end of the day, knows its nonprofit collaborators are all benefiting in the process.

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