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ICYMI: Firebirds Wood Fire Grill Shares Tipping Tech Advantages

RTN’s Town Hall puts a spotlight on the hot topic of tipping, featuring its Ring of Fire winner TipHaus.
rtn town hall tiphaus
During the RTN Town Hall, Cory Lilliston with Firebirds Wood Fire Grill shared his experience using TipHaus.
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Restaurant Technology Network's latest town hall showcased RTN's Ring of Fire winner Tiphaus.

At MURTEC 2024, TipHaus and its Earned Tip Access solution, won the inaugural RTN pitch slam, Ring of Fire, which featured innovative solutions from six established technology companies. After the rapid-fire pitches, attendees voted live to determine the winner. 

With tipping and tip distribution being such a hot-button issue in the industry, RTN continued the TipHaus conversation in a recent town hall, where the industry joined in to learn more.  Christopher Barry, Director of Membership and Communications of RTN,  emceed  the event. Chad Mattix, CEO of Kinettix, a provider of IT field technicians and break/fix dispatches, sponsored RTN’s Ring of Fire and moderated the town hall. Cory Lilliston, Chief Accounting Officer of Firebirds Wood Fire Grill, shared his experience with TipHaus, and Steve Hooper, President of Financial Services at TipHaus, gave a brief overview of the solution and responded to live questions. 

Mattix asked Lilliston about how Firebird’s 60 locations in 22 states were handling staff tipping prior to TipHaus.

No More Stuffing Envelopes

"We had an internally developed app that would do our tip share calculations, but it was not flexible," Lilliston said.  “Our managers had this task every evening where they had to take cash and stuff it into envelopes… And the next day, the manager would come in and double check.  Staff would come in when they're off duty to pick up their tips and sign an acknowledgement form. It was a very inefficient process, and it caused us to use a lot of cash in our restaurants.” 

With TipHaus, Firebirds went from having change orders delivered three times a week to once a week. “We're saving a lot of money right now on bank charges that offset the cost of TipHaus. It has been a great journey for us so far, and we're only in month six,” Lilliston added.

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Mattix asked if the tip strategy had also evolved.  

Operations didn’t want to go through “a big change,” Lilliston explained. “They wanted to do what they've always done.”  But seeing how the solution could facilitate their process was eye-opening and led to Firebirds -- in two clicks -- adding a tip pull for bartenders that is based on time of sale vs. paying off a bar pool.  “It’s a much more fair distribution system,” Lilliston said, adding “that was something we never were able to do before in our old system.”

Custom Integrations

Before TipHaus, Firebirds would get data from its internal tip-and-share solution, then import it into its payroll system.  Firehouse actually improved that interface by doing a custom integration, Lilliston explained. “We have a standard form that we leverage, and it did a really good job of formatting that data to where we could just import it. It has been a smoother process for us.”

It has been a win-win in every employee demographic
Cory Lilliston , Chief Accounting Officer of Firebirds Wood Fire Grill,

Three Ways to Access Tips

Tiphaus' Hooper gave a broad overview on how the end-to-end tip management and distribution solution works.

With earned tip access, employees have three ways to receive their tips.

"When we were designing this part of the product, we wanted to give employees a choice,”  Hooper explained.

Some employees want the money directly into their bank accounts in the form of a direct deposit (House Direct), which has a small fee for making the transfer. The employee could also choose to open a new bank account with TipHaus. It's free to receive their tips in that bank account, and they don't have to pay any fees. Athird option allows employees to receive the tips in their paychecks, which is also free. Regardless of which option they choose, all employees have access to a free mobile app where they can see their earnings.

Employee Feedback

Employee feedback, especially from the host and to-go positions, has been positive. At first, servers were “a little bit challenged by the fact they were not walking away with their cash,” Lilliston explained. “However, they’ve grown to enjoy TipHaus because they can look in the app and see how much money they’re making, they can see the trends and get an idea of their performance without doing a lot of calculations.”

“It has been a win-win in every employee demographic, especially the managers, but the employees overall have all enjoyed it, for sure,” Lilliston summarized. 


Looking Ahead

RTN will open nominations for its Ring of Fire (for established tech companies)  as well as Start-Up Alley (which recognizes innovations from new technology companies) later this year. Ring of Fire and Start-Up Alley semi-finalists will compete in their respective pitch slams at MURTEC 2025, March 10-12 in Las Vegas. 

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