To Tip or Not to Tip?


MW By Rupveen Arora (Mademoiselle Wanderlust), Head of Lifestyle

There is a significant change brewing on the dining scene of Manhattan, which could result in following suit on how Europeans ‘do it’. Earlier this week, the acclaimed Union Square Hospitality Group announced that starting in November, all thirteen of their venues are to phase out tipping. Of course, this will entail a hike in prices on the menu. Danny Meyer, the restaurateur and chief executive of the hospitality group that includes Union Square Café and Gramercy Tavern, stated that all 1,800 employees will be paid base wages only, and the transition will be complete by the end of next year.

Restaurants throughout the country, including San Francisco’s Atelier Crenn as well as others have already wiped out tipping over the last several years. These restaurants are now factoring in the wage prices in the elimination of tipping and/or surcharges to reflect the change. Call it what you like, this still goes to the services staff’s bottom line. USHG stated that their menus shall reflect the prices to include ‘hospitality’ and remove blank lines from the checks delivered to patrons. “There will be one total, as if you were buying a sweater at Brooks Brothers,” Mr. Meyer said.

Tom Colicchio, co-founder of Gramercy Tavern had this to say about tipping, “This is a bad way of paying someone. If there is bad service, don’t punish the server, punish the restaurant, punish me.”

The expected hourly wage rise for kitchen employees is expected to jump from $11.75 to $15.75. This change reflects the cook wages requirement to keep up with cost of living, particularly in a city such as Manhattan. Not to mention, the sustainability factor to attract Master-chef worthy culinary talent. Additionally, the increase in kitchen staff vs. dining room staff compensation has paled in comparison at 25% to that of a whopping 200%. The wage gap is simply another concern and leads to the push of tip elimination. “I’d see nights where waiters were crying because somebody from Europe, where they don’t have a tipping culture, would walk out without leaving a tip,” Meyer said.

Mr. Meyer posted a letter on the USHG site on Wednesday regarding the upcoming change in policy. Mr. Meyer has yet to comment on the menu price increase.

The other restaurants to undergo this ‘turning over a new leaf’ policy are: Blue Smoke, Jazz Standard, The Modern, Greenriver, Café 2 & Terrace 5, Maialino, North End Grill, Marta, Porchlight, Studio Café, Private Dining, and Untitled. The Modern, located at the Museum of Modern Art, shall be kicking off this new policy as the Pilot restaurant.

Perhaps this is a good thing for diners alike, however will the confusion of tipping vs. non-tipping stand the test of time or is this a trend that is about to take off in the world’s most incredible streets of dining.

Even though this remains to be seen, I’ll leave you with the words of Scott Rosenberg, owner of Sushi Yasuda, one of my favorite restaurants. Rosenberg had eliminated tipping so his restaurant “could more closely follow the customs of Japan, where tipping is rare.” He said he also hoped his customers would enjoy leaving the table “without having to solve a math problem.”

Feature image by alexthq13/Dollar Photo Club

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