Ever since NYC’s Sushi Yasuda introduced a no tipping policy in June, the topic of tipping has been part of almost every industry chat we have been part of. It’s not a new discussion — such renowned restos as Per Se, French Laundry, Chez Panisse and Alinea have put similar policies in place. And most European countries have long abandoned the system in favor of paying staff a fair base wage. But the Sushi Yasuda move sparked a new interest and perhaps intent among restaurateurs. David Chang and Tom Colicchio tweeted that they had contemplated doing away with tipping, as did Danny Meyer, who explained that he had explored the idea a few years ago abandoned the idea at the behest of his servers.
Another restaurateur who banned tipping is Jay Porter, owner of the now-closed San Diego restaurant Linkery, who wrote a recent piece for Slate.com that explained that for his restaurant "eliminating tips makes it easier to provide good service." Porter adopted an 18 percent service charge. His team refused to accept any gratuity beyond the service charge, and if someone left a tip on the table, it was donated it to charity. Similarly, Sushi Yasuda raised menu prices by about 15% and the servers got used to chasing customers out the door to return money left on the table.
"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," Porter wrote. "Servers and cooks typically made similar base wages—and minimum wage was the same for both jobs—but servers kept all the tips, which could often mean they were taking home three times what the cooks made, or more." According to Porter, under the new system at Linkery the food improved, perhaps because the BOH staff were getting more money and felt less taken for granted, Porter wrote. And after a few months of adjustment on the part of diners, business picked up, and the FOH staff were making more money than they had under the old system. "The quality of our service also improved," Porter wrote in Slate. "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."
Folks who are pro-tipping say that cash incentives motivate workers, that tips supplement paltry wages and give diners a fairly reliable control mechanism for minimizing the risk of a bad dining experience. The anti-tippers claim that paying every one a fair base wage to begin with is not only the right thing to do, but it results in better service because servers can concentrate on actually doing their jobs well, not spending time upselling or being obsequious in an attempt to bring in the bucks. So we wanted to ask the Cooking District membership, tipping yea or nay?
Check out this TEDx talk on the topic given by Bruce McAdams, a Canadian restaurateur-turned-professor and let us know what you think.