US restaurant group to implement no-tipping policy

A restaurant group that includes some of the country’s highly regarded and most popular dining locations is set to eliminate tipping.

Restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, which runs establishments like Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe in New York, will begin its new practices in November and the change could affect some 1800 people employed by the company.

The no-tipping policy will launch at The Modern, a restaurant at Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art. Meyer’s other restaurants will follow suit over the next year.

Over the last few years, reduced or eliminated tipping policies have been implemented in some US restaurants, most of them high end, including Manhattan’s Per Se and northern California’s Chez Panisse. To compensate for the loss of tips, some restaurants put a surcharge on the bill while others bump up menu prices to pay a higher hourly wage to servers.

Meyer’s group plans to increase menu prices and raise hourly wages for kitchen employees to $15.25 from $11.75 at The Modern, the New York Times reported. The increase will fall in line with the new state minimum wage of $15 an hour for fast-food workers. Menus will make it clear that prices include “hospitality”, and checks will not provide blank lines for a tip.

One reason for Meyer to eliminate tips is to retain kitchen staff who have not seen the same increase as dining room workers.

“The gap between what the kitchen and dining room workers make has grown by leaps and bounds,” Meyer is quoted as saying.

A shift in the public’s collective mentality
Tipping in the US is commonly seen as a tradition, a distinctive piece of American culture . But it can also be unfair to restaurant workers who do not always receive tips, and to servers who are judged based on their race, age and other factors that have nothing to do with their customer service.

“Unfortunately, many of our colleagues – our cooks, reservationists and dishwashers to name a few – aren’t able to share in our guests’ generosity, even though their contributions are just as vital to the outcome of your experience at one of our restaurants,” Meyer said in a statement on October 14.

Eliminating the tip involves a shift in the public’s collective mentality, said Kim Alter, a San Francisco-based restaurateur who is working to open a restaurant called Nightbird and Linden Room that will have a no-tipping policy.

“It’s a mindset we have in America,” Alter told the Guardian. Her family members and friends have always tipped based on quality service, she said, which can have unjust effects.

Alter plans to implement the no-tipping policy by paying her entire staff, including restaurant workers and bartenders, an “incredibly higher rate” than other restaurants. She declined to share exact salaries, but said: “No one is going to be making minimum wage.”

“It’s the kind of direction we have to go,” she said. To keep the policy in place, Alter wants to keep her tasting menu priced at around $115, which would include everything but alcohol.

“I want to keep it reasonable so that people can see you can get good service without tipping,” she said. – © Guardian News & Media 2015

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