“Our team members’ financial security should not be subject to our guests’ generosity”: Aiana Restaurant Collective Challenges the Status Quo
By Jess Carpinone
For almost two years, I hadn’t dined inside a restaurant. We don’t need to get into the reasons why – I think we all know what transpired. When it was time for me & my partner to finally treat ourselves to a night out, we wanted to go somewhere special.
When we first walked into Aiana Restaurant Collective, we were struck by the modern, moody design, the impressive wall of wine bottles, the ornate bar, and the elaborate pendant lighting. But Aiana is so much more than the beauty it oozes. It is a rare, no-tipping restaurant. A delicious culinary experience, with a conscience.
I had met owner Devinder Chaudhary once before, in a discussion group about downtown revitalization. Like many urban centers, Ottawa’s downtown was heavily impacted during the pandemic. Once buzzing with government workers and tourists alike, all of that changed overnight. Chaudhary’s business was hit hard by these changes, and he wanted to be a part of the discussion on how to build a more resilient downtown, one that reliably hums with people and life.
I got the sense in that discussion group that Devinder was a person that put a lot of thought and care into his business, and that he also cared deeply about his community and his city. I was keen to talk to him again, and dig a little deeper into why he chose to run a no-tipping restaurant.
“We are Canada. We are a rich country. We are a G7 country. Anyone who’s working 40 hours/week, should not be looking for a second job. I strongly feel that way.”
It comes through clearly in our conversation that Devinder is a deeply ethical person, someone who is not afraid to push boundaries, and an industry leader. But beyond that, he shares how his adoption of this unconventional business model has led to high employee satisfaction and low turnover.
In this interview, you’ll hear us get into the nitty gritty of tipping culture, some of the ethical and systemic challenges that plague the restaurant industry, why everyone should care about the health of our cities’ downtowns, and what it’s like to work with family.
Listen in on our full conversation as we muse about how to paddle against the current in an industry that can seem stuck in its ways.
And if you live in Ottawa or are planning to visit, please do yourself a favour and visit Aiana.
Watch the Full Interview