LONDON, ONT. -- The struggle for Ontario restaurants during the lockdown has been well documented, but one of the hidden casualties in the restaurant business is the loss of income from gratuities for restaurant workers.

At the Del Mar Restaurant in East London, server Sherri Moore says she appreciates the customers who help keep the business going. “If it wasn’t for our regulars we probably wouldn’t even be making it.”

But she says staff have taken a hit, not just in reduced hours, but also in gratuities they relied on to help them earn a living.

Moore says before the pandemic she would earn about $100.00 dollars per day in tips on a busy day. Nowadays she takes home about $20.00 per day.

“It’s a lot more work now with the take-out, ‘cause I’ve got the phones to manage, I’ve got the walk ups that come to the window, and then I have the thee Ipads for skip-the-dishes, Uber, and door dash.”

Del Mar owner Leo Nikas says he appreciates the sacrifices made by his staff.

“The tips are very limited. Maybe it’s not worth their while in tips, but they keep engaged with the business and their fellow staff throughout this.”

Many restaurant workers go unseen nowadays, so without takeout, the only customer contact is with the deliery driver.

The minimum wage for servers in licensed establishments in Ontario is $12.45 per hour. That’s with the understanding tha they’ll also earn gratuities. It’s $1.80 less than the general minimum wage of $14.25, and 95 cents less than the student minimum wage of $13.40.

James Rilett, the central Canada vice-president for Restaurants Canada, says the loss of gratuities is leading to experienced staff leaving the industry.

“Servers make three to four times their wage just in tips. It also makes it hard for people that may be good servers that have been in the industry for years but are seeing this as an opportunity now to get out. That’s valuable employees that might leave the industry and we might never see again.”

And while there’s no way to make up for the lost income from tips, Moore says she’s happy to still be working.

“We can’t wait to open up and get back to waiting on tables, and doing what we like - doing, right?”