A Vancouver restaurant that made headlines for scrapping tips and increasing staff wages to about $21 per hour has abandoned its unorthodox payment model after it became unsustainable.

Chef Nevada Cope set menu prices higher and told customers not to tip on their bills at Ritual, an American comfort food restaurant that opened in Vancouver’s west end earlier this year.

Cope’s idea was that she could provide a living wage with vacation and benefits to all staff members, including servers, cooks and dishwashers.

But that plan fell apart in recent weeks. Cope found that the model simply wasn’t a sustainable way to run her Denman Street restaurant.

"I really didn't want to do it. It felt like defeat and that I was going back on my word. But the last two weeks it became really apparent that I needed to go back," Cope told CTV Vancouver.

To make matters trickier, the chef said customers were often perplexed by the no-tipping policy.

"It is awkward for people. We've had a lot of different experiences with customers where it's weird," she said.

Rolling back wages

Three months after the Ritual opened its doors, staff will still be paid an equal rate, but that amount has been reduced. Customers are now being asked to leave their server a tip –- at least 15 per cent or more, as is customary in Vancouver.

The current minimum wage in B.C. is $10.45 an hour and $9.20 an hour for liquor servers.

Cope said she is open to reverting back to the no-tipping policy one day, but she said Ritual must first attract more customers to keep the model afloat.

A downtown Calgary restaurant has similarly experimented with gratuities recently. The newly opened Earls.67 restaurant introduced a mandatory 16 per cent “hospitality charge” for all customers, which will be divided among all workers in the restaurant. Staff will make between $16 to $24 per hour from the new surcharge and their base wages.

“We’re going to test it to see if it promotes teamwork, engagement and result in a better guest experience,” Craig Blize, vice-president of operations at Earls.67, told CTV Calgary.

Poll: Canadians prefer current tipping model

News of Ritual’s scrapped plan comes on the heels of an Angus Reid Institute poll that found that Canadians are generally happy with today’s tipping culture.

The poll, published Wednesday, found that 40 per cent of Canadians supported paying for “service included” on their restaurant bills with “higher base wages for restaurant employees.”

But 46 per cent said they preferred the existing system "with tipping a part of the restaurant experience.” Thirteen per cent of respondents did not provide an opinion.

An overwhelming 71 per cent of respondents agreed that tipping is one way for restaurants and other businesses to underpay employees.

The survey was conducted online from May 30 to June 6, 2016, among a sample of 1,505 participants who are members of the Angus Reid forum.

The results carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.