Planned Service Changes

Tom Colicchio, David Chang, and More Mull Over Abolishing Tips

Momofuku Ssäm Bar
Momofuku Ssäm Bar Photo: Jeremy Liebman

A post on Slate about the tyranny of tipping — it even “creates a racially charged feedback loop” — has prompted several chefs and restaurateurs to promptly weigh in on the issue. It all started with Union Square Hospitality Group’s Danny Meyer taking an informal survey on Twitter.

The restaurateur’s question drew some responses from some who’ve worked in the hospitality industry, one of whom argues that serving customers well is a skill that deserves compensation commensurate with performance.

@dhmeyer @haggisracer @PalmerBrian Dining is an experience, an adept waiter is a memory maker, not your servant. Gratuities are essential…— The Birch Chefs (@chefsbytrade) July 10, 2013

But the Slate post argues that, counterintuitively, the “factors that correlate most strongly to tip size have virtually nothing to do with the quality of service.” What’s more is that studies of mistreated restaurant workers, along with a staggering number of lawsuits, indicate that leaving gratuities to customers may be creating a harmful culture. “Tipping is a repugnant custom,” writes Brian Palmer. “It’s bad for consumers and terrible for workers. It perpetuates racism.”

Whatever the case, the arguments have gotten to Tom Colicchio:

@dhmeyer I’m thinking the same for craft— Tom Colicchio (@tomcolicchio) July 10, 2013

And to David Chang, who also has issues with tips but is worried about how much heat he’d draw if prices at Momofuku increased to reflect service charges.

@tomcolicchio @dhmeyer we are more than kicking around the idea @momofuku of figuring out how to increase prices removing tips w/o revolt— Dave Chang (@davidchang) July 10, 2013

At least both chefs have the support of Coi chef-owner Daniel Patterson:

@tomcolicchio @dhmeyer you should do it guys! Your leadership would make a difference. Service staff not going to drive this change.— daniel patterson (@dcpatterson) July 10, 2013

Are tips at moderately priced restaurants on their way out? It’s already happening at higher-end restaurants: Citing Japanese custom, the fourteen-year-old Sushi Yasuda announced last month that it was no longer accepting gratuities and had instead switched to a system where the cost of service is built into slightly higher menu prices. Not only that, but places like Atera and Alinea have also ditched tipping, in part because the practice doesn’t actually pair with the formats of a fixed-price tasting menu as well as one might think. But now it seems as though the no-tip movement may be ready to break away from fine dining and spread to other restaurant formats.

Tipping Is an Abomination; Here’s how to get rid of it [Slate]
Related: Service Included: 11 Restaurants Where Tipping Isn’t Customary

Tom Colicchio, David Chang, and More Mull Over Abolishing Tips