'South Park' Creators Take On The Tipping Debate By Banning It Entirely At Their New Restaurant & Paying $30 An Hour Instead

Many feel their approach should become the industry standard, but some servers wonder if they'll actually lose money with the new plan.

South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone s_bukley, D-VISIONS / Shutterstock.com; Canva Pro

Customers and businesses alike have been yelling at each other about tipping practices for what seems like a millennium. But with their new restaurant purchase, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of "South Park" and "The Book of Mormon," have decided to opt out once and for all.

The pair are taking a new and progressive approach to tipping at their new Denver restaurant that is totally groundbreaking — for America, anyway. But while most people are applauding them, some aren't quite so sure about the changes they're making.


The 'South Park' creators have decided to ban tipping altogether after purchasing the iconic Denver Mexican restaurant Casa Bonita.

Ask anyone who's lived in Colorado, or even just many people who have passed through Denver, and they will tell you that Casa Bonita is a landmark and an icon. Often called "the Disneyland of Mexican restaurants," it's the kind of kitsch destination they just don't make anymore. Who doesn't want to watch indoor cliff divers while sipping a margarita?

RELATED: Chef Refunds 'Rich' Customer's $1200 Bill To 'Stand Up' For The Server Who Was Disrespected

So when the beloved spot closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Colorado's two most famous residents, who have featured the restaurant on "South Park" in the past, stepped in and bought the place.


People are thrilled that the beloved spot will live on after nearly a half-century as a Denver mainstay. But with new ownership always comes changes, even to a beloved old place like Casa Bonita, and Parker and Stone are using it as an opportunity to break new ground when it comes to the American restaurant industry by shaking up the way Casa Bonita approaches tipping.

First, Parker and Stone announced in January 2023 that Casa Bonita would pay an hourly wage plus tips, with rates rising above Colorado's state minimum wage of $13.65.

Servers were slated to make $14.27 per hour plus tips, while bartenders would get an extra dollar per hour plus tips for slinging all those margaritas.



RELATED: Manager Tells Employees They Won't Be Paid For The Day If They Show Up A Minute Late, But They Still Have To Work


That's a far cry from the pay rates of most restaurants in the United States, where business owners in most states are allowed to pay tipped employees like servers as little as $2.13 per hour, according to federal law. Even with tips added on, that often makes tipped jobs like serving in restaurants inadequate to make ends meet —the average server takes home just $13.95 per hour including tips, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

casa bonita where south park creators have decided to ban tippingPhoto: TikTok / @paulywoggggg

Parker and Stone changed their minds and decided to ban tipping and replace it with a standard $30 per hour salary for all Casa Bonita employees. But not everyone is happy about it.

Parker and Stone ultimately decided they could do better than $14.27 per hour plus tips. Days before Casa Bonita's June 2023 reopening, all employees were presented with contracts offering them the new hourly wage and stipulating that Casa Bonita would be a tip-free restaurant.


Employees were given just one day to decide if they were willing to sign on to the new arrangement, which the restaurant's management said will provide a stable wage for employees even when the restaurant is not full.



RELATED: Server Reveals She Was Fired After Receiving $100 Tip From Customer

The wage is also part of Parker and Stone's new approach to Casa Bonita, in general, treating it more like an attraction for which diners will need to purchase tickets rather than simply coming in for dinner. Casa Bonita's management said this was the reason for the new pay scheme. 


"Based on the recent beta testing of our one-of-a-kind restaurant," spokesperson Stefanie Jones told Axios Denver, "we have adjusted our compensation system for efficiency and fairness."

casa bonita, where south park creators have decided to ban tippingPhoto: TikTok / @paulywoggggg

Which sounds perfect, right? Anyone who's waited tables has had the experience of turning up for work only to face a dead restaurant and a depressing take-home pay for the day.


But documents submitted to Axios by two employees reveal the new pay scheme constitutes an enormous pay cut on days when Casa Bonita is actually full — to the tune of hundreds of dollars per shift. And the employees who've spoken to Axios are not at all happy about it.

RELATED: Man Shows 'Ungrateful' Server Following Him Outside And Accusing Him Of Leaving A 'Broke Person Tip'

casa bonita, where south park creators have decided to ban tippingPhoto: TikTok / @paulywoggggg


Their hesitance about the new system is certainly understandable — a pay cut is a pay cut, of course. But many restaurants operate in a hierarchical structure when it comes to doling out those super-lucrative shifts, with the most senior and seasoned staff getting the good schedule slots, while the newbies have to fight it out during the slower and lower-paying ones.

Casa Bonita's management is right — a standard hourly wage makes everything fair. And hey, it works great in Europe, where nearly all restaurant jobs are paid a livable hourly wage and that's that. It's a job like any other, not a hustle.

But of course, America's capitalist system and tipping culture are a different breed, and it just goes to show how deeply entrenched that system is — even a whopping $30 an hour, more than many people make at specialized jobs with a salary, isn't enough to settle it.

RELATED: Nurse Says He Was Called Into His Manager's Office For Telling His Coworker He Only Goes To Work To 'Make Money'


John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.