Another LAX Restaurant Leaves Priority Pass

One of the greatest improvements we’ve seen to Priority Pass the past couple of years is the addition of airport restaurants. Priority Pass has partnered with some airport restaurants to offer members a certain dollar amount credit (typically $28-30) that they can use towards purchasing food and drinks at those restaurants.

This network has been growing significantly, and in the US we’re now up to about two dozen Priority Pass restaurants, which is great.

LAX is one of the airports that has benefited from this, and over the past several months we’ve seen three new restaurants added at the airport:

  • In June, Barney’s Beanery in Terminal 2 was added to the Priority Pass network
  • In September, Campanile in Terminal 4 was added to the Priority Pass network
  • In September, PF Chang’s in Tom Bradley International Terminal was added to the Priority Pass network

This was a pretty good selection, especially given how many terminals LAX has. For the most part the relationship that Priority Pass has with restaurants seems to be mutually beneficial, though once in a while it doesn’t work out.

In October, just a few weeks after the restaurant was added, Campanile’s LAX at Terminal 4 was removed from Priority Pass. Unfortunately it looks like a second LAX restaurant is now being removed as well.

Barney’s Beanery in Terminal 2 is leaving the Priority Pass network as of November 30, 2018. What could the cause be of them leaving Priority Pass? I suspect it’s one of a few potential things:

  • The demand was too great, and it got in the way of their normal business
  • They just couldn’t make the economics work; Priority Pass pays somewhere around $23-24 to the restaurant for the $28 credit, and a lot of people don’t tip when using Priority Pass, so I’m not sure if those two things compounded to make this problematic
  • It could be a cashflow issue, since Priority Pass pays monthly and more slowly than what they’d get through credit card transactions

At this point the only remaining Priority Pass restaurant at LAX is PF Chang’s, located airside in Tom Bradley International Terminal. That’s one of my favorite chain restaurants, so I’m still happy about having that as a choice.

PF Chang’s LAX

Tom Bradley International Terminal is connected airside to Terminals 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8.

If this does come down to an issue with tips, I don’t get why Priority Pass can’t change the system so that tips are automatically charged as part of the credit (as we’ve seen at the Corona Beach House). In other words, a $28 credit would really get you food and drinks worth that amount minus tax and tip, so that servers are definitely being paid.

What do you think is causing restaurants to leave Priority Pass?

(Tip of the hat to Live and Let’s Fly)

Comments

  1. Whew… as long as it’s not PF Chang’s that’s leaving. That’s easily better than most PP options at LAX

  2. I think it’s because there is often confusion with priority pass. I’ve always been disappointed when using it. Most recently I tried to use it at Bar Symon in CLE but it wasn’t valid due to arriving and not departing. The nuances probably cause customer experience issues and the restaurants do not want to tarnish their reputation.

  3. It’s absolutely the tipping situation. I was at PF Changs in TBIT last week and chatted with the server about it. He said that he’s lucky if 10% of his PP pass customers tip.

    Servers are complaining to management and management has stood up for the servers.

    The no tippers are ruining it for everyone.

  4. No tipping is what killed living social/groupon. I’d also find it hard to believe PP is paying $24 given the margins at an airport. Even $16 would be enough for the restaurant to turn a profit and could be beneficial as long as they’re not taking up seats from normal customers. PP is probably also selling the restaurants on “affluent customers” who will spend more than the $28 credit, which isn’t happening.

  5. According to the Priority Pass website, a departing boarding pass for a same-day international flight is required to receive the $30 credit at PF Changes.

    Does anyone know how strictly this is enforced? Specifically, would I be able to get the $30 credit also if I arrived at LAX from a domestic flight?

  6. @Kevin

    “Servers are complaining to management and management has stood up for the servers”

    Management would do a lot better job standing up for their servers if they actually paid them a wage which meant they could survive without handouts from the public…..but then when was the last time management ever stood up for workers in a way that hit their pockets rather than the publics?

  7. > Most people are bloody posers. Travel in business but nitpick every nickle and dime.
    That’s why Endre pays for his economy tickets in cash.

  8. Indeed Debit.

    Travelers splurging on J class but can’t afford to tip $5 after using PP. This is why we can’t have nice things.

  9. I agree that restaurant workers should not be dependent upon tips. However, if tipping is customary at a restaurant and is not included with Priority Pass, they should at least let customers tip with a credit card. One time at LGW, I did not have any pounds (I was transferring), and the Priority Pass staff told me not to worry about it regarding tipping.

    Regarding anyone who claims that the restaurants stood up for their servers, the Corona Beach House example shows that restaurants have the ability to include tips, which would be a better way for restaurants to stand up to servers.

  10. California has no tipping wage differential, meaning that there is no “tip credit” that is rebated to the employer – in layman’s terms, minimum wage is minimum wage is minimum wage.

    In almost all situations, I would rather tip the people who handle and plate my food rather than the server, but c’est la vie (in America).

  11. @ Fred S.

    No it is not enforced. I went to PF Chang last weekend when flying out from Terminal 5. The host did not even check my boarding pass nor my ID. All she said was “Show me your Priority Pass”.

    However I must say that this is probably the worst PF Chang I have ever had. ALl the food I ordered was dry and over seasoning. The food was not fresh and felt like microwaved.
    Not sure if It was because of me arriving at 10 pm just before closing.

  12. I had the same reaction as some of those above — at least it’s not PF Chang’s that is leaving. It’s an interesting flux with these non-traditional lounges / restaurants. The Capers Market at PDX for example has changed its policies multiple times. I just flew through there last weekend and they have now made it possible to use on arrival once again.

  13. Please tip! I’m in solidarity with the servers having spent my college years waiting tables for near nothing in wages but depended heavily on tips to survive. And I thank each and every one of those generous and kind people who basically helped me to have the good life I enjoy today.

    You can argue that the restaurants are at fault for not paying servers a living wage, but that doesn’t change the dynamics of the current climate. If you want these options to stay open, you need to tip.

  14. I can’t imagine that Priority Pass pays these restaurants in cash equivalent nearly as much as you think. Priority Pass can’t possibly stay in business at $23-24 per visit. I know you have seen internal numbers listed on receipts before but those could simply be accounting numbers of the value and not what is reimbursed.

  15. The expectation Priority Pass holders have is that you show the card and everything is covered. It’s not reasonable to try to change consumer behavior. Instead, Priority Pass should just pay 15% for tips and this should be included.

    I don’t want to think about tipping when I use Priority Pass. I just want to show the card and be done.

  16. The service and food quality made it difficult to tip at Barney’s. The food was always gross and the service was truly terrible. I always tipped the minimum 15% of the total since I used my priority pass but not sure if I would have tipped if I had been paying the full bill.

  17. I was at the PF Changs in TBIT on Thu and watched two guys come to the bar, order food to go, get the food, debate tipping (PP card holder said “it’s not necessary,” guest said, “I want to tip”), decide since they didn’t have smaller bills to walk without leaving anything.

    I’m guessing it happens a lot and this will go away also

  18. I hate this American obsession with tipping. If employers paid enough it wouldn’t be necessary. If you are dependent on tips for simply doing your job then look elsewhere. And reminds me of a waitress in a certain well known long establishment who had been working there 30 years and was waiting for her tip when all she did was give me the menu, take my order and serve me !

  19. Strange, I tend to overtip when using Priority Pass. I kind of feel like if I’m getting a free meal, I mght as well shift some bucks to the server. I kind of assumed would act this way as well. I suppose the no-tip thing is like free breakfast at your hotel. In my experience, those staff members work their butts off but tips are non-existent because no one is coming to your table, asking if you’re OK, etc.

  20. It’s also the practicalities of tipping. I often don’t carry cash and if I stay below the priority pass limit, there is no transaction where I could put the tip on a credit card.

  21. Tipping is one of the worst aspects of the American culture. It’s not surprising that it is somewhat responsible for losing PP restaurants at the airports.

  22. They will never allow the tip to be included. You could order a soda, leave a $25 tip and split it with the server.

  23. I specifically choose not to tip in the US, I do this so I actually help the employee. If more and more people will stop tipping, hopefully oneday the US will get rid of their tipping culture. Employees will then actually earn a decent wage from their employer.

  24. Oh jeez, another thread that goes down the tip vs. no tip debate. Tipping is a horrible American custom and there are a myriad of reasons why it is bad practice: it’s discriminatory, it creates hidden pricing, it’s confusing for foreign visitors, it causes problems for programs like Priority Pass etc.

    That said, it’s a strong social custom and my understanding is that most of the minimum wage laws in the U.S. don’t apply in the same way for tipped jobs, so there is an expectation for tips. As a result, while I think it’s a terrible system, I do tip as a matter of course in the U.S.. I NEVER export American tipping customs when travelling elsewhere though and am very sure to read-up and study any local gratuity customs.

    So Americans, if you insist on tipping 20% in the U.S. fine, but please don’t try to bring your asinine system to other countries.

  25. Agree it’s tipping that is a big factor. I always tell the server up front that I’ll be tipping at least 20%. I’ve learned I get better service as every server I’ve spoke with (at least on 20 different occasions) has said they rarely get tips from PP patrons. That’s disappointing that people don’t tip when using priority pass.

  26. @Daniel is right. If they let people tip on credit card, this problem would be significantly reduced. I’m one of many who don’t really carry cash and been at a couple of PP restaurants where I’ve then had to find a cash machine just to pay the tip

  27. Just another data point that PF Chang’s does not check your flight. I made two visits this week when flying AA out of T4 and was able to grab food to go without issue. The walk from T4 takes about 5-10 minutes depending on how fast you move and where your gate is. PF Chang’s is on the mezz level of TBIT so as you walk over there is no need to go down the escalators to the main departures level.

    You might not need to leave the full 20% on a to-go order but I don’t see why at least leaving $3 or so (or 15-20% if getting table service) should be a big deal when you are getting a free or close to free meal.

  28. @Fred S.

    I double checked my PP app and also PP website, but it just says “To be eligible, Cardholders must present a valid Card and Boarding Pass with confirmed same-day travel before placing an order. ” It doesn’t say “International” anywhere. Where did you get the information?
    Also, I use the restaurant when I came back from Hawaii last month, and they didn’t even check my BP and it was even arrival.

    For the U.S. lounge/restaurant you should be fine as long as you hold the same day BP. It shouldn’t matter if departure or arrival, but you just double check conditions for each lounge/restaurant, I guess.

    Especially PF Chang’s is located at TBIT they must know there are many international passengers who are not accustomed to tipping… They are visiting the U.S. but still… The problem is some servers are misunderstanding what tips are and also restaurants should pay them more!

  29. Come on people, lets be real! Yes, it would be nice if restaurants paid staff a living wage, but that’s not the world we live in and refusing to tip someone who depends on it is not going to change that…perhaps voting for legislation mandating a living wage would help? It’s disingenuous to make up lame excuses for not tipping in a situation like this. Everyone knows its customary to tip in restaurants.

  30. Like Robert F, I tend to overtip on PP airport restaurant visits because I am getting the food for “free.” I believe restaurants that allow tipping on credit cards will do better in terms of collecting tips. Timberline Steaks in DEN allows tipping on a credit card even if the meal amount on the credit card is $0.

  31. Why don’t Priority Pass and the restaurants just implement an automatic 15% service charge or something that goes toward a server gratuity. That way, the servers still get their fee and users don’t have to carry cash around. That way, the restaurant can stipulate that service is included on the bill and users don’t have to worry about calculating the tip.

  32. @Parts Unknown – that’s easy enough to fix. Just add a 16.67% “service fee” to the bill automatically, which represents the server’s tip. I picked that percentage because it works out to exactly $24 worth of food under the current $28 allowance, with a $4 tip to the server. I really don’t understand why this isn’t done already.

  33. The tipping culture in America is out of control! Like others have said, I am doing my part to get rid of it by never tipping unless I receive extraordinary service.

  34. I was just in BOS and used PP at the sports pub in Terminal C. The waitress very clearly told me when giving me the check that gratuity was not included. I didn’t blame her for pointing that out. I made sure to tip her and as I left I saw her take a glance at the check on the table with cash on it and she gave me an appreciative smile. I also saw this as supporting the PP benefit.

  35. “The tipping culture in America is out of control!”

    Tipping should be for extraordinary service. I still tip, because i know I’m not changing culture by shafting the employee, but lately I am trying to tip more commensurate with the service provided.

    In Portland at least, a significant fraction of restaurants institute “living wage surcharges” to “pay for insurance, etc” or some of the more brazen ones will admit it’s because minimum wage went up and they don’t want to pay their staff. I thought that’s what I was doing when I paid the list price for the meal.

  36. i find that any of these “free” or “slightly free” meals should come with a manditory tipping %. i know a few restaurants already does this. i know of one that charges a flat 12% which seems fair… i did find one that charges 18% regardless of the # of ppl which i find quite high honestly.

    i used to work for a big service company, we were given 50% off meal vouchers but require 18% gratuity. i think thats fair. less money for the company, more money for the servers… win on both fronts.

  37. @Agreed. Tipping is very American, but tipping is not a requirement. You should only tip based on how good the service was.

  38. What priority pass really needs to do is kick that fraud Alaska Airline lounge out of their system at LAX. Yesterday it happened to me for the third time, that I schlepped all the way to terminal 6 to find the sign:due to over capacity not allowing PP members.

  39. Minimum wage at LAX is $12.08.

    There is no lower minimum for wait staff. Tips are above and beyond12.08 per hour.

    By comparison, the federal tipped minim wage is $2.13, so be sure to tip when traveling in non-liberal cities and states.

  40. If they can include tax, why not include a set percentage for tips? One does not routinely tip in airline lounges so I can understand the desire not to tip at the restaurant either since it serves the same purpose as the lounge.
    I ate at Campanile the month it was included. I was surprised the waitress told me she makes over $75k per year. Someone is tipping well! Food was poor and even free I would not have gone back.

  41. I wonder if they aren’t making as much per table. Maybe those on PP are limiting their bill close to the $28 max and then tying up a table. Maybe they get a higher bill per table if not PP.

  42. The federal minimum wage is currently 7.25 per hour. The employer on the federal level is allowed a tip credit of 5.12, bringing the initial hourly rate to 2.13 per hour. The employer is still responsible to bring the employees hourly wage to 7.25 per hour if they do not receive enough in tips . Certain state and/or localities wage rates are higher than the federal minimum and may outlaw the federal tip credit, thus the actual rate defaults to the higher of such in a given location. In the end servers are minimum wage employees, the same as gas attendants, foodstore workers, etc. If you want to tip, tip, if you don’t want to, than don’t, the choice is yours, it’s not a requirement regardless of opinion.

  43. Unbelievable. You non-tippers probably think you’re sophisticated world travelers. Do you also insult the king in Thailand? Throw your shoes in the Arab world? Chew gum in Singapore? You are heathens if you don’t tip here in America, and you’re not helping anyone by not tipping except your own greedy selves.

  44. Stopped at Barney’s Beanery twice over the last couple of months. Both times customer service was TERRIBLE…And I almost resorted to being my own waiter. That being said, I did tip both times since the food was decent. I am not sure sure if it will be much of a loss for me as I typically avoid flights in/out of LAX. Maybe I am old-school and think tips should be earned rather than expected.

  45. @Lucky. I don’t know why so many people are raving about restaurant openings (and now closings) when the real story is how many lounges no longer have access through Priority Pass.

  46. I tip by credit card at PP restaurants. The server runs me a cash bill for 1 cent, and I add the $4 tip (or whatever) to that. I pay by credit card and the receipt is reimbursable if I’m traveling for business. I guess it would depend on the specific restaurant and your employer being willing to do it that way.

  47. just look to London (UK) what happened in bars and restaurants when the min wage came in . Less staff were employed initially (owners stick to X percentage of revenue for staff); then as min wage increased the cost of the food / drinks increased, and as such tips started going away. Locals and the typical Australians etc stopped working in the bars as the total salary was too low (the min wage didnt make up for lost tips). Foreign, english as 2nd language staff accepted the jobs. Unfortunately this translated further loss of the “local pub” as their was no connection between the staff and the clients. Even though I don’t agree so much on tipping for the sake of it there are a lot of negatives in the service industry. Ends up being generally poor service, high cost food and the demise of these premises.

  48. I do feel bad for the servers anytime I use PP in the US for a “free meal”. I usually tip the servers $5 or $10, it really doesn’t hurt to be supportive.

  49. I was there at 9 pm on a Friday night and it took over 30 minutes to get a drink.

    I also observed a couple get seated and wait for a server. A few minutes later, when their server came, they presented their priority pass cards. The sever then proceeded to scold them because the cards should have been scanned by the hostess prior to seating. The server told them that had there been a line, they would need to give up their table and wait to be reseated to use their priority pass.

    Aside from treating their priority pss customers like second class citizens, the restaurant has a poor setup, mediocre food, seems constantly understaffed to handle any volume of traffic and isn’t somewhere I’d generally pay to visit.

  50. tired of this endless debate. Tipping started in prohibition because of the loss of revenue at bars. Now we have whiney bartenders that expect a dollar or two to twist off a bottle cap. but we do have waitstaff that like how it is because they make bank.

  51. applesa, I think you just need to look to most of the rest of the developed world to see where min wage came in.

    They seem to be working fine.

  52. Went through PDX today and used both PP placces in concourse C – capers and the spiits place. No problem with either

    Spent the max ($56) at Capers and tipped the server $10.

    Then $24 at the spirits place with a $4 tip

    2 persons in each case.

    Treat them good and they treat you good

  53. Please, everybody, please stop spreading the utterly ridiculous practice of tipping. Tipping generously isn’t something you brag about, it’s you supporting a system that is quite frankly awful. The sooner we get rid of tipping the faster that higher wages will come to food service.

  54. Visited 30 countries last year and on track for 30 again this year. What’s clear this year is that Priority Pass was handed out like candy to starving children and 2019 will be all about pay-per-use lounges. I say that based on my prior experience not only with Priority Pass but also Centurion Lounge. And what will be AWESOME about pay-per-use lounges is that hardly anyone will pay $25-$50 to bring in their poorly behaved little brats. Bye kids!

  55. Please note that PF Chang’s does not open till 11am.
    I had a recent flight that left at 9 am. KAL lounge is open but not for priority pass members until 11 am as well

  56. Just say NO to tipping. It is becoming an epidemic in the U.S. and must be stopped before it infects every part of our society.

  57. Priority Pass is a bust IMHO. I upgraded to the Amex Plat about 2 years ago and have used it a grand total of once. Every other time I have attempted a PP lounge it has been closed to PP due to overcrowding. I have access to OneWorld lounges outside the US given lifetime Plat on AA so generally don’t need PP access outside the US. I have never been turned away from a Centurion lounge, but most always get sent packing by PP. And I mostly do not want to eat a bunch of microwaved airport food for the privilege of getting out of the terminal madness. It is all Appleby’s all the time. What I want in a lounge program is a bit of cover, an exit from the madness and a drink or two. If there is a snack, all the better, but not mandatory. Whatever clears out the crowds works for me, and that includes charging.

  58. I think Priority Pass works best in those markets that have decent airport infrastructure to allow for high quality, large, dedicated Priority-Pass lounges. SIN is a good example of this. Plenty of Priority Pass accessible lounges and most are new and good to very good quality. Canadian airports too have good quality Plaza Premium lounges which are accessible through Priority Pass. I can agree that the U.S. is not a good place for Priority Pass.

  59. Been to a few of the restaurants in SFO and IAH…6 visits total over the breakfast and dinner hours. Always crowded and service slow and sometimes short of staff. Definetely increased customers/traffic with PP. Food mediocre at best. Yes, it’s better than nothing especially in airports like this without a lounge. But I can see restaurants pulling out one by one as they continue to see increased traffic and people not spending more than their credits and/or not tipping. I did tip but because of the poor overall experience, it was 10-15% and not 20%, something I would have done if paying cash.

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