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The End of Restaurant Tipping?

One former restaurant owner advocates tipless restaurants — and uses his own experience to support his opinion.

by
Chris Queen

Bio

August 21, 2013 - 7:00 am

Tipping

Without a doubt, tipping practices are ingrained in our culture. We debate how much our server deserves to get. We fret over the math. We cringe when our large party has to pay the 18% automatic gratuity. The tip can be as much a part of the experience of dining out as the meal itself.

That may change. One San Diego restaurant owner published an editorial advocating tipless restaurants. Jay Porter, former owner of the Linkery, relates his experience running a restaurant free of tips and how both service and employee pay improved:

A couple of years after opening the Linkery restaurant in San Diego, the team and I adopted a policy of adding to each dining-in check a service charge of 18 percent—a little less than our tip average had been. We also refused to accept any payment beyond that service charge. (If someone surreptitiously slipped a twenty or two under a water glass, we donated it to a rotating “charity of the month,” usually selected by a staff member or patron.)

We made this change because we wanted to distribute the “tip” revenue to our cooks as well as our servers, making our pay more equitable.

[...]

When we switched from tipping to a service charge, our food improved, probably because our cooks were being paid more and didn’t feel taken for granted. In turn, business improved, and within a couple of months, our server team was making more money than it had under the tipped system. The quality of our service also improved. In my observation, however, that wasn’t mainly because the servers were making more money (although that helped, too). Instead, our service improved principally because eliminating tips makes it easier to provide good service.

Fox News looked a little deeper into the debate whose waters Porter stirred:

American attitudes towards tipping are not so straightforward.  Researchers say that tipping is one way diners feel in control of mitigating a bad dining experience. But, a recent survey found that 63 percent of Americans felt pressure to tip even when the service was bad.

Porter hasn’t been the only restaurant owner to abandon tipping. In June, Sushi Yasuda, the celebrated Japanese restaurant in New York City, got rid of tips citing Japanese custom:

“Following the custom in Japan, Sushi Yasuda’s service staff are fully compensated by their salary. Therefore gratuities are not accepted. Thank you,” it now says on its receipts and menus.

Most of the chefs mentioned in the Fox News piece shied away from a tipless model because they feared patrons would bristle at the increased costs associated with the change, while others felt that tipping was too much a part of the dining experience to just go away.

What do you think? Would you pay a little more for food if it meant you would never have to leave a tip? Do you think service would be better or worse under a tipless model?

All Chris Queen wanted to be growing up was a game show host, a weather man, or James Bond. But his writing talent won out. By day, Chris is a somewhat mild-mannered office manager for an IT managed services provider, but by night, he keeps his finger on the pulse of pop culture and writes about it. In addition to his Disney obsession (as evidenced by his posts on this website), Chris's interests include college sports -- especially his beloved Georgia Bulldogs -- and a wide variety of music. A native of Marietta, GA, Chris moved with his family as a child to nearby Covington, GA, where he still makes his home. He is an active charter member of Eastridge Community Church and enjoys spending time with family and friends. In addition to his work at PJ Media, Chris spent nearly a year as a contributor to NewsReal Blog. He has also written for Celebrations Magazine and two newspapers in Metro Atlanta. Check out his website, www.chrisqueen.net.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
The tip was used to be a reward for excellent service, but now its become an entitlement program for people that obtained liberal art degree's.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Kvetch, kvetch. No money for salaries? No customers? No economy? Keep voting Demokrat and RINO's!

I have seen all this re-arranging the chairs at the Titanic in other countries. Go back to being real Americans with real initiative and self-sufficiency and you will see ow all these things resolve themselves.

But I'm afraid I'm preaching to empty chairs. Am I?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This guy didn't eliminate tipping , he made it mandatory, whether it was deserved or not.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (63)
All Comments   (63)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
I recently spent three weeks in southern China where one does not tip. I felt like a weight had been lifted from me -not a financial one, but an expectation that I would be handing money over to people who were just doing their job, in many cases a job I didn’t even want done for me like waving down a cab or rolling my small carry-on to my hotel room. It has always bothered me to tip a bathroom attended who hands me a towel, or a hotel employee who brings a pillow to my room which should have been there in the first place.
With tipping out of the question, I felt that the smiling young man who helped me find my room and the cab driver who helped me get my party’s bags into the trunk were intent on doing a good job, not sucking for bucks.
I never thought of the situation as a money-saver. Rather, I felt that a barrier between me and another person had been removed.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
With 18% mandated, there is no incentive to work harder or be more pleasant. The cooks should already be paid well, and if they wanted tips they'd have applied for a job as a server. Most cooks prefer the kitchen because food doesn't talk back.

43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
One of my main rules for life is NEVER piss off people who serve you food. At least not before you finish your meal.

Another maxim that is true far more often than not is you get more of the behavior you reward. Reward bad service with a good tip you are encouraging the server to give more of the same.

Personally, I will not frequent an establishment that mandates that I pay a portion of their employees compensation. Should I choose to do so that is one thing.

If the server cannot handle the customers they should seek another line of work.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
" I will not frequent an establishment that mandates that I pay a portion of their employees compensation."

You do this in every business you patronize, one way or another.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have long said that bad service is not necessarily the fault of the server, nor bad food that of the cook. Responsibility ultimately rests with management, who has failed to assure the product/service is satisfactory. Therefore he should pay the price for poor performance (or receive the reward for good, to share with the help as he deems appropriate). Tipping is the only way to deliver a verdict on the spot, as opposed to going elsewhere, which may never have an effect until long after when the place closes. So may I suggest that all tips go to the manager, and the absence of tips deliver a meaningful message?
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wait staff are paid only a half hourly wage, so, w/o tips, they won't have wait staff. Kitchen workers get their whole hourly wage, so why do they deserve to get tips?
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
The idea is to pay everyone a full hourly wage.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
A lot depends on the type of clientele a place gets. If you get lots of tourists from places like Belgium or Japan, you're not gonna see much in tips despite the fact that people from these places generally spend liberally --- EVERY cafe or restaurant in Belgium I've ever eaten at had "Service and VAT included" on the bill AND the menus. I've had multiple conversations with Belgians like this:
"What?! You're supposed to leave 15% in tip?!"
"Well, that's typically all the waitstaff earn..."
"But this is outrageous? How much is 15% of [bill]?"
Upon being told the number, they generally pay without further argument.

In Israel, the best tippers are often people who remember their own college/pre-army/post-army jobs as waitstaff, or have kids currently working restaurants. There, I almost always leave my tip in cash (out of pocket, if it's a business meal) since I want to be sure the tip isn't pocketed by the "manager" ;-)
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Having been a wait staff in high end and a few of the lowest I had great reservations on this issue of letting go of tips as I almost always did better than any other on my shift.
But seeing how the whole culture has changed and many people believe because of a victimology mind set that they never have to tip at all so a server spends time and energy and often on demanding guests and gets no reward so thinking this over for a year at least and reading what has been the custom in other nations I see the beauty of having a server fee added on
I wonder IF the owners are willing to pay more than the $1.25 an hour the servers make as base pay?
Is this way of charging being spread over the owners as well as the staff?
will those that feel entitled walk out on more checks as they have been know to do ?
In some places we set aside a % to give to the kitchen staff
Where this was not done I have tipped at the end of my shift anyway and often helped an overworked staff when the front was slow.
The sharing is a sweet oil to keep it all running smoothly.
and YES some co workers did not like me sharing tips with the harrassed kitchen staff.
My own feeling has always been if I am getting mine I want to share with those who help me to get it. :)
52 weeks ago
52 weeks ago Link To Comment
I waited tables 15 years, before and after my BA, and I think that the American public is not comfortable with service industries, period. Which is interesting, since that is where so many young Americans who decide they will stay off the dole and work will end up. Younger generations have not been taught courtesy, patience, drive, or generosity-- all of which are ingrained (or not) in childhood, and all of which play into the customer/waitstaff interaction. Ideally, you would receive stellar service no matter what, with pitch perfect courtesy and efficiency. Ideally, you the customer would take notice of circumstances beyond the servers control that may be preventing seamless service. Some people feel too comfortable with people in service to them and take out their negativity on someone to whom they feel superior. It may be the icky guy who makes a pass at you in front of another woman, it may be the nasty woman who has made you the voodoo doll of the woman her husband is sleeping with, it may be the sad, sad type that thinks that being unpleasable and demanding shows how masterful he is. Waiting tables is good money for less hours of work, but it is demanding emotionally and physically. It is so looked down upon by the public, that it is used as a punchline for failure and the ultimate example of an unsuitable woman. People who work in the service industry are never granted any respect for their work and get the argument that they chose to grovel for a living, and if they don't like it do something else. All of you that have these comments about how you save the top tip for excellent service, I understand and accept that, but I challenge you to consider for a moment if you have held up your side of this human interaction. My grandmother always advocated being nice to everyone, just because God told you to, but if you need more incentive, remember you, or your child, may be on the other side of the table some day. Your server has to pay taxes on 9% of all checks, tip out busboys, barmen and cooks and live on your tips since the base rate of pay usually just covers the Social Security tax. Unless your server was lazy, inattentive or rude, the service was probably OK. So, does how much the server sucks up to you play into whether it was "good" service or not? Do you demand unfailing courtesy from your server no matter how inappropriate you were? Obviously, 15 years in the dining room tells you that I found the pros to outweigh the cons, but I can also tell you this: the percentage of your tip not only reflects on the service, but it very clearly reflects on you as well. I think that there are so many articles on tipping because it is about more than money, it is about social class, an epidemic of self-absorbtion, and a plummeting economy where more people find themselves working in service and people are less willing to part with cash. It requires rock hard self-esteem to wait tables, and good self-esteem to not misuse the situation as a customer. The fake self-esteem they hand out these days is not adequate for either side.
52 weeks ago
52 weeks ago Link To Comment
My wife was a waitress when she was in college and still bristles at the memories. People would tip one dollar, exactly and always. Or they would tip her with a Bible tract. Or they would leave a note that they are donating her tip to a charity. I think most waiters would LOVE to get in on that 18% guaranteed deal.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Tipping means you owe money, but nobody tells you how much.
http://www.jochnowitz.net/Essays/Tipping.html
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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