New York-based restaurateur Danny Meyer to eliminate tipping – The Boston Globe

Today New York-based restaurateur Danny Meyer announced that he would eliminate tipping in all 13 restaurants of his Union Square Hospitality Group. (Shake Shack, the burger chain Meyer founded, which has multiple local branches, is not part of the restaurant group.) The website Eater had the exclusive
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The change will be implemented starting in November, beginning with the Modern, at the Museum of Modern Art. It will gradually roll out to every USHG restaurant, from Blue Smoke to Gramercy Tavern to Maialino. And it will be offset by an increase in menu prices. There are many complex reasons to dispense with gratuities, but chief among them may be the ability to pay all employees — from cooks to servers — a better and more fairly distributed wage.

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A handful of restaurants nationwide have been experimenting with the elimination of tipping in recent times. Locally, Select Oyster Bar opened this year with a 20 percent pre-tax tip included. It puts the diner in an interesting position, I wrote in my June review:

“Those who wish to tip less than 20 percent — which is the new 15 percent, FYI, whoever you are — must request the service charge be removed. Those who are accustomed to tipping more must then add a few extra dollars, a number so small it makes an act meant to be generous feel miserly. And then there is the plain fact that your already pricey $20 salad is really $24. Your super-simple $35 roasted lobster is really $42. In practice, of course, that’s always the case. But it serves to highlight the weird way we pay for restaurant meals in this country.

“That’s not a bad thing. How can operators factor a fair wage into the business of running a restaurant? It’s something anyone fortunate enough to eat out on a regular basis should give a thought to now and again.”

Other restaurants — Journeyman and Tasting Counter in Somerville — have adopted a ticketing model, including tax and tip in the purchase price. No one I’m aware of in the area has yet fully eliminated tipping and raised prices, however. It was sure to come, but it’s surer now. Meyer is a leader in the field of hospitality, the kind of restaurateur many wish to emulate.

It will take him a full year to implement the new policy in all his restaurants. It will take the industry many more to get on board. (Meyer, the Eater story points out by tracking down a 1994 Union Square Cafe newsletter, has been pushing for this move for some time.) But make no mistake: This is the direction US restaurants are heading. Customers will no longer determine how much servers, working for a low hourly wage, get paid. The cooks sweating over the food will no longer receive lower pay than the people bringing it to the table. It is, inevitably, the right thing to do.

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