(Photo: 2005 photo by Quentin Bacon)
Soon, when you visit some of New York’s most acclaimed restaurants, you’ll be able to pay your tab without leaving a little something extra, guilt-free.
Restaurateur Danny Meyer said Wednesday that his
Union Square Hospitality Group will be eliminating tipping, starting next month. In a letter on the group’s website, Meyer said that the new policy will kick in at The Modern restaurant at the end of November, and be instituted at the group’s remaining New York eateries next year.
“Starting at The Modern in late November, you will no longer find a tip line on your check, and there will be no need to leave additional cash at the table, the coat check, or the bar," Meyer said. “Once these changes are implemented, the total cost you pay to dine with us won’t differ much from what you pay now. But for our teams, the change will be significant. We will now have the ability to compensate all of our employees equitably, competitively and professionally. And by eliminating tipping, our employees who want to grow financially and professionally will be able to earn those opportunities based on the merit of their work."
Meyer noted that various laws prohibit certain restaurant workers, like dishwashers and cooks, from getting tips, “even though their contributions are just as vital to the outcome of your experience at one of our restaurants."
Meyer’s eateries are just the latest high-end restaurants to ban tipping. Pittsburgh restaurant Bar Marco instituted a no-tipping policy in April. The renowned vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy in New York City enacted a no-tipping policy in February.
Still, the National Restaurant Association says that the "no-tipping'' practice is far from an industry trend.
"The move towards a non-tipped environment is a new and somewhat small concept with only a handful of restaurants testing it nationwide,'' says Christin Fernandez, the association's spokeswoman. "As the industry of hospitality, we’ve found the practice of tipping has traditionally attracted millions of employees to our industry and still has strong support from American diners.''
Fernandez added that nationwide, restaurant employees are supposed to be paid at least the federal minimum wage, and some cities and states like New York have approved minimum wages of $15 an hour.
Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., began adding a surcharge to patrons’ checks in the late 1980s to boost wages for all of its employees.
“We don’t have a no-tipping policy,’’ Chez Panisse general manager Jennifer Sherman says, noting that some customers do leave extra, which goes to the server. However, a 17% surcharge is tacked on to all bills.
“That goes to the house and is distributed to staff in the form of higher wages,'' says Sherman. "And we subsidize health insurance and paid vacation.’’
The eatery's legendary founder, Alice Waters, felt such a policy was only fair. "Alice felt really strongly that the inequities between the front and back of the house was not how she wanted to run her business,'' Sherman says. Additionally, with servers in U.S,. restaurants traditionally earning low wages and deriving a good deal of their income from tips, “she felt strongly it was good to go to a more European model, adding a service charge and paying everybody more equivalent wages.’’
Amanda Cohen, owner of Dirt Candy, says that there is a 20% administrative fee on every bill that is later distributed among the staff. "We still are getting résumés, nine months in, from people who want to work for us,'' she says.
Before moving to the restaurant's current Lower East Side location, Cohen remembers having difficulty finding cooks. "They had left the city,'' she said. "When you pay somebody $10 to $12 an hour, it's hard to live in Manhattan, or Brooklyn or anywhere in the five boroughs. And when you're commuting an hour to an hour and a half to get to your job, and working 12 hours, it's not sustainable.''
The administrative fee was a way to "break down the discrepancy between the back of the house and the front of the house,'' she says. "My goal is to leave this industry a better place than when I came in.''
Source: Charisse Jones, USA TODAY