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A little over two months ago, our college town brewery in southern Indiana made a pretty big change in the way that we operate and compensate our taproom staff. Since then I’ve been asked a few dozen times, “How’s it going? Are people liking the switch? Are you doing okay financially?” I love that folks are truly interested in what we are doing and that the no-tipping movement conversation is once again getting some attention. Spoiler alert: It’s going great!

If you haven’t heard, after researching our own payroll data and customer habits for over a year, we began to notice trends that closely matched data from large studies. The basic idea behind tipping is that service workers are getting rewarded for doing a good job, but the science and data simply doesn’t back this up. There’s decades’ worth of consumer-psychology research clearly demonstrating that tipping hardly improves service at all. In fact, study after study has shown that: 

  • Better service does not result in better tips.
  • Better tips do not result in better service.
  • Poor tips do not correct poor service.

Personally, I felt that the employer/employee relationship was pivoting, largely due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. When stay-at-home orders swept the nation it wasn’t just the businesses that had to pivot and change their models to survive. Employees, especially those working in the hospitality and lodging industry, were laid off or told to stay home. According to a recent survey from the personal finance website Bankrate, more than half (51%) of Americans have less than three months’ worth of emergency savings. So now we’ve got a large group of people—who love being around and making conversation with complete strangers—sitting at home, during a pandemic, waiting on their unemployment checks with little to no savings. 

Very quickly, it is clear to see that the employer was no longer the only one sitting at the table wondering what to do next. Sure, some came back to the hospitality and lodging industry, but what about the people that didn’t? Maybe they found a better-paying remote job. Maybe they went back to school. Maybe they decided that standing on their feet, walking tens of thousands of steps on hard concrete for long shifts, tolerating inappropriate and rude customers (yet depending on those same customers to supplement their take-home pay) just wasn’t worth the $2.13 per hour hourly rate anymore. Speaking of hourly rates, seven states do not have a lower tipped minimum wage (CA, OR, WA, MN, AK, NV & MN) yet they enjoy faster job growth, higher wage growth, higher sales per capita, and the same averages of tipping.

Enter the “Great Resignation”. A record-high 4.3 million workers in the United States quit their jobs in August 2021, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which represents the highest monthly total since the data series began in December 2000. Folks are quitting for a lot of reasons, but I have to believe in my heart of hearts that the hard-working people that are serving you and your family are doing so because they had the time to reconsider things in the middle of a pandemic.

I found myself not able to sleep at night. I knew in my gut that something had to change at Switchyard. That we had to offer something different, that we needed to break the cycle of harassment, burnout, misconduct, and wage discrimination. So at the beginning of August of this year, we made the decision to eliminate tips and pay a flat living wage based on a staff member’s experience level, seniority, performance and continuing education. We raised our prices by 25-30%. Pints of our beer went from $5 or $6 to $6 or $7. Our gourmet pizzas with housemade dough and sauces saw an increase too. We stopped offering weekly specials, but kept our annual Mug Club membership, offering discounts to our most loyal customers. A week later, after silently removing the tipping line from the credit card slips, the story broke. First on our local Foodies Facebook page, then to our local NBC, FOX and CBS affiliates in Indianapolis. Then, our official announcement mosaic went viral on Facebook, reaching over 2 million unique accounts from over 10,200 shares and 3,000 comments. The outpouring of support was seen not only from our followers here in Bloomington, Indiana but all over the country, from Las Vegas and Seattle to Boston, Chicago and Philly, to even across multiple continents around the world. 

What happened next completely took me by surprise. 

Call me naive, but I was sincerely shocked to see how many folks were truly and passionately pissed off about our company’s decision to eliminate tips and pay a living wage. Someone from Ohio proclaimed on Facebook, “You’ve lost a customer! I’m never going to your brewery! I hope your woke business shuts down!”

Another man called the taproom twenty minutes before we opened one Tuesday and proceeded to tell our Hospitality Director, Kiley, what he thought. Kiley did an amazing job handling the situation, trying to educate the customer and present our reasons, but he didn’t have any interest in listening. Her hands shaking in anger, ended up going silent, letting him vent for a few minutes before silently hanging up the thirty-minute phone “conversation”. The man called back. I answered the phone and introduced myself. He demanded to speak to Kiley again, and I, as calmly as I could, explained that she was unavailable and that he could speak to me directly. He again became rude, yelling expletives. I advised him that I would be hanging up and that he should not call back again. After I hung up the phone, it rang again. I answered and explained that if he called back ever again, or visited the taproom, that I would have to request a no trespass or harassment report with the police. He never called again. 

This was the first of several calls that our staff has taken from folks all across the country. From the Facebook comments to the phone calls and the 1-star Yelp and Google reviews we received, we immediately recognized that this was a group of folks that were not remotely close to being stakeholders in our business; and, in all honesty, would probably never step foot in our brewery (but found the time in their day to make their feelings known).

Another surprising reaction that I didn’t expect was how many folks commented that $15/hour was not a liveable wage. True, in a lot of metro areas $15/hr is not a liveable wage. In mostly rural southern Indiana, however, it is. I am sure that at a Downtown Chicago steakhouse, a seasoned veteran server can make upwards to $100k/year, but that is just not realistic here in Bloomington, Indiana. We also saw comments from people that during their time bartending and serving that they would make way over $15/hr in a shift. That could certainly be true, but it is heavily dependent on so many variables. What day of the week was the shift? What section did they have? Do they have seniority? Did they work their way up from hostess to server to bartender? Were they paid that much when they were just out of training? How was the weather that shift?  Folks in the hospitality industry have a sort of “gambler’s mentality” meaning they are stoked about the $300 in cash they took home on a Friday night, but forget the $50 they made earlier that week on a Tuesday. 

Yes, Monroe County is a mostly-blue, liberal county in a sea of red that is the Hoosier state. But consider this— if we, a craft brewery in the bluest of Indiana counties, in a college town, that prides itself on inclusiveness, diversity and equality found that tipped-wage discrimination was very real and happening right under our noses, imagine what is happening in your neck of the woods?

This discrimination does not only apply to race, color, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, relgion or nationality – it applies to everyone. At our establishment a young, white female was tipped 25% more than the middle-aged, white female. A young, Asian-American female was tipped 15% less than a young, white female. A study of over 2 million Uber trips found that women got tipped more than men; younger women the most and a $4/hour wage gap between white and black workers. I simply don’t believe in allowing my employees to work in an environment like that, which allows those discrepancies in pay to occur.

Tips say everything about the person tipping and nothing about the person receiving the tip. 

If a customer had a bad experience, it’s my fault as the business owner. It’s my fault for not staffing appropriately on a busy night. It’s my fault for not providing effective training. It’s my fault for failing to lead. Does your company take a portion of your hourly wage away if you mess up? Of course not, they would violate at least ten different Department of Labor laws or regulations. 

I guess what has really bothered me the most through the last month was the reaction from some of the other hospitality employees right here in our own town. We have been accused of gaslighting them. Our staff has been met with hostility, malice and inappropriate comments from others in the hospitality industry while enjoying a beer after work with their coworkers. I’ve been told that some see Switchyard as ‘accusing other businesses for being racist’ because those establishments still accept tips.

Let me be crystal clear here. Are you paying attention? We believe that we have made the right decision for our business. We are unapologetic supporters of the tip-free movement. History tells us that tipping is rooted in racism. Is the act racist? Well, to be frank, that entirely depends on the person tipping. And therein lies our problem. The customer should never have the ability to directly affect someone’s take home pay. Full stop. 

Is this model right for every business? I don’t know. Can it be implemented into any business that currently accepts tips? Absolutely. Plenty of data and research currently exists to back up why we made this change for our business and we are happy to share how we did it with anyone who asks. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the 56 people I call coworkers are some of the best around. They have taken this negative energy and spun it into the positive energy that you feel when you walk into our taproom. We haven’t had a single person quit because of the new change. Revenue is up and transactions are faster. Unfairness, discrimination, harassment, and legal minefields have disappeared; my coworkers feel valued, protected and empowered to stop inappropriate customer behavor way before it ever becomes a problem (and not able to threaten their take-home pay). Our customer service and taproom experience hasn’t changed and coworkers no longer have to go to great lengths to try and work every Friday and Saturday night. 

So, one month later, are we happy we made the change? If you made it this far, you know my answer. Absolutely. I know, at the end of the day, that we are doing everything that we can to take care of our people and in turn, they can take care of their families and in turn, come to work in a fun—albeit sometimes chaotic—environment and do what they do best: take care of you, our awesome customer.


Kurtis Cummings
Founder / President

At Switchyard Brewing, we witnessed firsthand the transformative power of community engagement during our recent Dance in the Street Block Party. We want to share this remarkable experience and inspire other breweries and business organizations to make a positive impact in their own communities. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the significance of fostering connections, nurturing emerging talent, engaging in philanthropy, and creating unforgettable experiences. Join us as we explore how #BeerIsCommunity and discover how your brewery can add value to people’s lives and businesses.

Recognizing Remarkable Achievements:

As we reflect on the success of the Dance in the Street Block Party, it is essential to recognize the exceptional contributions of our Summer 2023 Private Events Intern, Sydney Evans. Hailing from South Bend, Indiana, Sydney played a pivotal role in planning, designing, marketing, and executing this unforgettable block party. From start to finish, Sydney showcased her exceptional talent and commitment to creating an extraordinary experience for all attendees.

Nurturing Emerging Talent and Leadership:

Our brewery takes great pride in hosting interns from the IU School of Public Health Hospitality and Tourism Management Degree program. These talented individuals, like Sydney, are required to work full-time with local businesses as part of their internship. By entrusting interns with the planning and management of large private events, breweries have the opportunity to foster growth, passion, and professional development within the industry. Sydney’s remarkable achievements during her time with us exemplify the power of learning through action and embracing challenging experiences.

Engaging in Philanthropic Endeavors:

During the Dance in the Street Block Party, we were honored to collaborate with My Sister’s Closet, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting women in need. Thanks to the generosity of our attendees, we collected a mini-van full of donated clothes and essential personal care supplies. These items, including tampons, sunscreen, body and face wash, and other hygiene products, will directly support women in need in Monroe County, making a meaningful difference in their lives. By aligning with a cause and leveraging community support, breweries can create a positive impact and improve the lives of those in need.

Creating Unforgettable Experiences:

The success of our Dance in the Street Block Party has motivated us to continue hosting future events. We are already in the planning stages for upcoming block parties in August, September, and October. By inviting friends, family, and community members to join us, we aim to create memorable experiences that foster a sense of joy, celebration, and unity. These events not only benefit our brewery but also contribute to the overall well-being and connectedness of our community.


Breweries have a unique opportunity to make a lasting impact on their communities. By building connections, nurturing emerging talent, engaging in philanthropy, and creating unforgettable experiences, they can cultivate a sense of belonging, empower individuals, and foster positive change. At Switchyard Brewing, we wholeheartedly embrace the notion that #BeerIsCommunity, and we invite breweries and businesses everywhere to join us in creating a brighter future for all.


Kurtis Cummings
Founder / Switchyard Brewing

At Switchyard, we’ve always been open and candid about our journey, sharing both our successes and the challenges we face. Today, I want to give you an honest glimpse into some of the recent obstacles we’ve encountered, such as financial difficulties, a tipping policy shift, and equipment failure. In doing so, I’ll share some personal insights on the importance of adaptability, resilience, and nurturing a strong company culture in the face of adversity.

In August of 2021, we made the bold decision to eliminate tipping completely and pay our staff a living wage. We rejoiced, no more tip-line! Tipping has never felt right. It’s always been my personal belief that as the chief leader of our company, it’s the company’s responsibility to pay our staff, not our customers. No one should be dependent on earning a wage that is 100% dependent on the whim of the customer. Part of why we did this is so that our front-of-house staff are able to afford to work weekdays, opening shifts, and slow days. It also means that they are being fairly compensated for “side work” such as bussing tables, cleaning up, etc that aren’t tipped work. At the end of the day, this move was, and still is, in line with our commitment to creating a positive and supportive work environment for our team.

Consider this, if an associate at your local hardware store helped you find the exact part for a project and gave you some friendly advice, do you feel the need to tip them? The vast majority of you will likely say no, of course not, they are paid an hourly rate for their product knowledge, experience, and customer service. That employee’s take-home salary is not dependent on the customer – it’s dependent on the company they work for. The way we see it, that’s how our business should operate. Better service does not always result in better tips. Better tips do not result in better service. Poor tips do not correct poor service.

We soon found out that many of our customers still wanted to tip our staff as a way to express their gratitude, even though we were adamant that it was not necessary.

Like in the hardware store example, if a customer handed the associate a few bucks for their assistance, I’m sure the store employee would gladly take it. Here at the brewery when a customer left cash on their table or at the bar, we would simply put it into a bucket and split it with all non-management staff who worked during that month. Unlike what you would expect from customers at the hardware store, our guests caught onto this and we noticed more customers bringing cash with them when they visited the taproom.

We even noticed out-of-town guests going out of their way, walking down the street to the nearest ATM just to withdraw cash to give to us! Some habits are certainly hard to break. So, we listened to our guests’ feedback, and about a month ago we reintroduced the tip line, showing our dedication to being flexible and responsive to our community’s wishes. Even though the option to tip on a credit card is back, the tip always defaults to “No-Tip” because all Switchyard staff are still guaranteed their living wage, regardless if every customer tips, or if no one tips at all. Every full-time coworker still enjoys benefits such as paid vacation and continuing education opportunities and every coworker still receives employer-paid virtual urgent care and mental health therapy sessions for them and their partner/spouse/children. 

In the midst of this tipping policy change, we faced an even more significant challenge when our glycol chiller, the heart of our brewing process, broke down. This crucial equipment controls the temperature during fermentation, and without it, our brewing came to a standstill. It took us two long months to get the chiller fixed, and during that time, we had no choice but to rely on guest taps to keep the beer flowing.

It was a humbling experience, to say the least. I mean, who goes to a brewery to drink other breweries’ beer, right? But we had to find a way to keep our doors open and stay true to our commitment to our community.

Throughout these challenging times, I’ve been reminded of the power of adaptability. In the world of business, we have to be ready to pivot, respond to change, and embrace new ideas. This lesson rings true not only for our tipping policy but also for the way we handled the glycol chiller crisis, and even with our response during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Resilience has also played a crucial role in our journey. It was tough for our team to stay positive while our brewery’s lifeblood was out of commission, but we supported each other and found creative solutions to keep moving forward.

Above all, I’ve learned that nurturing a strong company culture is essential during times of uncertainty. By promoting open communication, fostering a positive work environment, and taking care of our mental health, we’ve been able to navigate these rough waters more effectively.

As we look ahead to the future, I’m grateful for the lessons learned and the unwavering support of our community. Through embracing change and overcoming adversity, we’re growing into a stronger and more resilient Switchyard Brewing Company. So, here’s to the journey ahead, with all its twists and turns. Cheers!

Kurtis Cummings, a steadfast optimist, and visionary entrepreneur is the founder and president of Switchyard Brewing Company in Bloomington, Indiana. Having moved to Bloomington in 2006, Kurtis discovered his passion for homebrewing and transformed it into an entrepreneurial pursuit. With a background in pre-hospital emergency medicine, Kurtis developed eight guiding principles that drive the decision-making process at Switchyard Brewing Company. Committed to using business as a catalyst for positive change, Kurtis fosters innovation and community impact through his unique approach to leadership and business.


The 0.00031 Bitcoin 4-Pack

Switchyard Brewing Company becomes first Indiana brewery to adopt cryptocurrency for in-taproom purchases

BLOOMINGTON, IND., March 5, 2022 –– Beginning Monday, March 14, 2022, Switchyard Brewing Company, located in the growing college town of Bloomington–just a few blocks from the Indiana University Campus–will begin accepting Bitcoin cryptocurrency in their downtown taproom for all orders.

“At Switchyard, we have always worked to challenge the status quo and the perceptions of traditional business. The developers, miners, and adopters of cryptocurrency are exactly the same. Adopting alternative payment options that don’t involve high transaction fees or a centralized processor aligns with the craft brewing industry’s mantra of “damn-the-man” ethos,” said Kurtis Cummings, chief executive officer. “I’ve always been a self-proclaimed advocate of unconventional and innovative views on business and leadership. This launch is just an extension of that”.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the brewery’s average guest check was around $12, or about the cost of two beers. The brewery’s downtown taproom now includes their own Switchyard Pizza Kitchen, which the company opened in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our guest check now averages over double that amount since the addition of our pizza kitchen”, said Kiley Memmott, Hospitality Director. “Exacerbated by the pandemic, almost no one uses cash anymore; digital currencies are the primary method of payment in our taproom”. 

“Since switching to a tip-free business model last fall, customers do not even have to sign for their credit card tabs anymore,” said Cummings. “A key benefit to accepting cryptocurrency is eliminating the credit card fees, which unfortunately get factored into the pricing whether customers realize it or not.” With traditional credit card purchases, fees may be up to 3.5% per transaction; with payments made in Bitcoin, those fees would plummet to about four-hundredths of a US cent ($0.0004), equal to 1 satoshi.

Launching their own self-hosted cryptocurrency node, Switchyard implemented the open-source technology from BTCPay Server–which provides a secure, private, censorship-resistant and free payment processor. “We even went as far as naming one of our team members CCO, or Chief Crypto Officer, of the company,” said Cummings. “One of our original coworkers, who is also an engineer by trade, really brought the idea to life.”

Michael McClung, CCO, who works part-time at the brewery, was an early adopter in cryptocurrency and provided the team with the blueprint for how to adapt the up-and-coming technology to the brick-and-mortar concept. “Cryptocurrency is still in its infancy; I would say we at Switchyard are still very early adopters of the technology”, said McClung. “The self-hosted node that we have implemented at Switchyard will allow us to not only support payment processing for our own transactions, but we will also be able to help support other local small-businesses or charities who may want to begin accepting cryptocurrency. Since the server contains the entire Bitcoin blockchain, transactions are not only instantaneous but are also secure. When businesses depend on a third-party payment processor, not only do they charge fees, but customer data is frequently sold to third parties. With cryptocurrency, the transaction needs no middleman and customer data remains private.”

“With Switchyard’s investment into the implementation of our local Bitcoin node, we are able to support our community by easily helping other small businesses adapt and integrate Bitcoin payments into their own point of sale or online store”, said Cummings.

Customers will still be able to use “fiat currency” (US Dollar) and credit cards at the bar, but if they want to use their cryptocurrency wallet, it’s as simple as scanning a QR code. The customer will need to use a digital wallet, such as Coinbase Wallet, to scan the QR code generated by the bartender when they are ready to pay. The transaction is settled immediately and customers are provided with a receipt. 

Cummings referenced the organization’s guiding principles, “We are excited to be the first to adopt this technology, but we are more excited about what the future holds and helping other progressive-minded companies adopt the technology too. Our mission has always been to be ‘a catalyst for positive change within our community’. We do this through our guiding principles, two of which, ‘a place to learn’ and ‘being an active part of our community, being dead center to our organization’s adaptation of cryptocurrency.


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Small Businesses Need Paid Family Leave
Written by: Kristin Cummings, Director of Finance & HR

As a matter of family values, paid family leave is important, important to our children, to our economy and to our small business community.

BLOOMINGTON, IND. — October 22, 2021 – Small businesses are often the scapegoat for why major change shouldn’t happen on the legislation front. The funny thing about that is, most small businesses welcome change and encourage challenging the status quo on a regular basis. Our small business is no different. We’ve purposely chosen to strive to be different and offer better benefits and a better work-life balance to our employees. As small business owners we’ve seen firsthand how truly impactful these policies can be to our employees and their wellbeing. We’ve also experienced the opposite. Both myself and my husband/business partner have experienced the corporate side of these policies and the detriment they can cause. 

We adopted our daughter from birth four years ago. While we had been getting to know the birth mother for several months prior and had been provided with her due date, we all know babies decide when they are going to come into the world on their own schedule. Three weeks prior to her due date, our daughter decided to arrive. We were overjoyed but also in a panic. My husband, who worked for a local ambulance service, had to get his shifts for the next several weeks covered. Yes, you read that right, he had to get them covered. He couldn’t just call in and let his employer know that his leave was starting, he had to actually attempt to get others to cover his shifts or he’d be written up and potentially terminated. This became even more complicated when our daughter was admitted to the NICU 3 days after her birth.  Thankfully, he had amazing co-workers who not only pitched in and worked together to cover the shifts, but also donated their own hard earned PTO in order to help us financially. But that was the people he worked with, not the organization he worked for. I think that’s the important message here. 

When we decided to go for this small business life, we made one of our top priorities employee care. We actually do not even use the term employee in day-to-day practice, we prefer the term coworker. We use this term interchangeably, but when we think of our team as coworkers, we know that we are keeping our belief of servant leadership in practice. We knew we wanted to provide a direct path to a healthy work-life balance without the worry of financial stressors when life hands you the unexpected. I’ll be honest, at the beginning of this journey, and as the one who handles the finances for our company, I had concerns about making it work on the business side. Providing paid leave, unlimited vacation to exempt coworkers, health benefits, and V-PTO (volunteer paid time off), where we provide one hour of PTO for every two hours coworkers spend volunteering in our community, it all costs money, lots of money. But the more research we did and the more we educated ourselves about providing these benefits, the more we realized that in the long run, retaining employees and creating a healthy work environment paid for itself. It all feeds into our culture, which feeds into our company’s ecosystem.

Yes, there are times that while running our small business we struggle financially and worry about covering all our costs, and debate suspending the “extras.” But every time it has come down to it, we make it work and we look at how the overall benefits outweigh the cost. Using creative avenues to cut costs and boost sales in order to support our values is what our team is all about. We’ve seen firsthand what sending a coworker off for a paid vacation with a travel stipend can do for their productivity and mental health upon return. We’ve watched coworkers grow and blossom through paid training and come back with ideas and motivation to implement them. We’ve also been able to see the stress melt away when our coworkers realize they don’t have to choose between paying bills and spending time with family. We’ve seen the appreciation and care our coworkers experience when they feel valued and they in turn lift up the business.

We understand the challenges small businesses face, especially coming out of the pandemic. We are still fielding those challenges ourselves every single day. But we also know that businesses can and should implement paid leave for employees to improve overall outcomes for the business and the individual. We wholeheartedly believe that this change, while expensive on the front end, pays for itself twice over in the long term. 

The fact is, workers in many low-wage jobs are the least likely to have paid leave, and yet are also the least able to afford to go without pay. Just 9% of private sector workers in the lowest wage quartile have paid family leave benefits – even after the enactment in 2017 of tax credits intended to incentivize employers to offer paid leave. Furthermore, just 19 percent of the workforce has paid family leave through their employers, and only 40 percent has paid medical leave through an employer-provided disability program.1

Please consider reaching out to your representatives to encourage them to vote in favor of the Build Back Better plan which includes policy for national paid family leave. Policies that establish paid leave programs enjoy strong bipartisan support. Eight in ten voters, across party lines, say they support paid leave policies. Today, more than ever, we need our Indiana congressional representatives to know that Hoosiers and Hoosier small businesses are ready to take this step forward and are in favor of federally paid family leave.

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employee Benefits in the United States (March 2020),

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