In February of 2015, we discussed the minimum wage and why the practice of tipping should cease to exist. Since then, it appears that restaurant owners have been listening to us — or perhaps we were just reporting on an inevitable trend. An increasing number of restaurants are adopting the practice of going tip-free and raising the wages of their workers to make up the difference.
High profile restaurants that are joining the trend include Per Se in New York; Berkeley, California's Chez Panisse; Bar Marco in Pittsburgh, and Alinea in Chicago. The restaurants of the Union Square Hospitality Group in New York City, including the Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Café, and Blue Smoke, will be transitioning to a tip-free environment with the first restaurants converting in November.
Going tip-free makes the experience simpler for all involved. Restaurant owners do not have to worry about the mechanics of dividing tips among the entire staff and settling up at the end of shifts. Servers do not have to worry about being stiffed or being penalized for things that are not their fault, such as poorly cooked food. Cooks, dishwashers, and other support staff will get equitable compensation. Diners do not have to bother with calculating tips or deciding whether the service warranted more or less than a standard tip.
Wages are lower under the traditional system because it is expected that tips will make up the difference, so patrons who do not tip are arguably pocketing some of the wait staff's rightful salary. Most restaurants assume typical tips in their calculations, but too many Americans do not leave the standard 15-20% tip. A survey from vouchercloud.net found that 75% of respondents tip less than 20% and that 46% are tipping less than they did five years ago.
When tipping amounts are disconnected from the perceived level of service and do not serve their original purpose, it is time for the practice to end. Wages for restaurant staff should be more predictable and reasonable — at least that is our opinion.
With that said, there is one argument that could be made for tipping. If you receive extraordinary service, how do you reflect that if not with a large tip?