Media contact: Jillian Henze, APR, senior communications manager, , 360-956-7279 ext. 124


Hospitality association tip pooling communications win top award

(OLYMPIA, WASH., March 27, 2019) — The Washington Hospitality Association’s Communications Department turned a surprise federal tip pooling win into an award-winning effort for its members and the industry in Washington state.

The association earned the top award in the Institutional Programs category of the 2019 Public Relations Society of America Totem Awards on March 26.

The winning entry was for the association’s Tip Pooling Changes Bring Restaurant Wage Equity communications campaign implemented in March-June 2018.

About the campaign

Wage inequity between tipped servers and line cooks in U.S. restaurants was on full display in early 2018. At the end of a shift, the tip jar was emptied and shared among servers who walked away with $500 cash. Line cooks, dish washers and kitchen staff were prohibited by law from getting any of that tip jar money.

For 21 years, the CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association partnered with the National Restaurant Association fighting to pool tips with kitchen staff and cement pay equity – even asking the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in.

The association was in a holding pattern waiting on the Supreme Court ruling. Negative media increased from December 2017-March 2018. Stories alleged it was regular course of business for restaurant owners and managers to take tips earned by employees. On March 23, 2018, the fight was won.

Congress, not the U.S. Department of Labor, surprisingly passed legislation to open tip pools to the kitchen.

The decades-long legal fight turned overnight into a celebration and the communications team dropped everything to educate restaurant members to share tips and raise wages for Washington state kitchen staff members.

“Working in the hospitality industry – in a hotel or restaurant – is being part of a team,” said Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association. “All employees are working toward the common goal of providing the best possible customer experience. This rule change helps our employees succeed by rewarding teams who work together and is truly a win for all team members.”

The goal of the campaign was that every association member knows they can now tip pool with kitchen staff members.

For the campaign, the communications team tested new data and analytics collecting with link tracking tags, website traffic numbers, video engagement and Google rankings to adjust and manage the campaign.

The campaign leveraged the association’s communications vehicles including its radio show, magazine, weekly e-newsletters, social media, two-minute news video and a comprehensive resources toolkit with a Q&A, how-to, tip out calculator and template documents.

Some of the greatest results of the campaign:
• Web traffic to the association’s top tip pooling page increased 206 percent from April 1-June 1, 2018 (goal was 30 percent).
• Tip pooling pages are two of the top 10, most-visited web pages – of all time.
• The association received just ONE member phone call including the question of: Can I tip pool with heart-of-the-house employees from May 15-June 1 (reduced from daily calls).
• Members of the association’s Editorial Committee agreed the team spread the message far and wide to inform members.

“This award represents our communications team’s incredible work ethic, ingenuity and dedication to our members and the industry,” said Lex Nepomuceno, senior director of communications and technology of the Washington Hospitality Association.

About the PRSA Totem Awards

According to the Public Relations Society of America, “the Totem Award is a symbol of creativity and accomplishment for the PR industry in the Puget Sound area.”
The society’s Puget Sound chapter honors the best in regional public relations programs and is open to all PR and marketing professionals, society members and nonmembers alike.
Each entry is judged on its own merits, with Totem Awards and Certificates of Excellence being awarded in more than 20 categories and multiple sub-categories, according to the society’s website.


About the Washington Hospitality Association
Hospitality is the industry that serves. The Washington Hospitality Association delivers wins for the largest group of private employers in the state. The 286,000 jobs the industry provides are the backbone of our state’s economy. The association works at the state and local levels to find proactive solutions to the challenging issues facing the industry and its workforce. It supplies its members with programs, services and information they need to deliver great local experiences, ensure the success of their employees and help their communities thrive. The Washington Hospitality Association became one of the state’s largest trade associations in 2016 when the Washington Restaurant Association and Washington Lodging Association joined forces in a combined association.