Tipping Point? Nearly Half of Restaurants Say They're Planning to Join the No-Tips Movement

Tipping Point? Nearly Half of Restaurants Say They're Planning to Join the No-Tips Movement

Is the national tipping debate about to tip over to the no-gratuities side? Stay tuned.

By Drew DiSabatino

Your days of secretly calculating percentages on your phone under the dinner table may be coming to an end.  

As CNBC reports, a study by the American Express Restaurant Trade Survey revealed that out of a random sample of 503 U.S. restaurateurs, nearly half had either already implemented a no-tip policy or had plans to in the future. The numbers break down like this: 18% have already adopted a no-tip policy, and 29% say they plan to do away with tipping at some point. Since the national no-tipping debate reached a new level of prominence last year, it's sparked intense controversy among restaurateurs, staffers and customers.

Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio was an early adopter of the no-tipping practice, and his former business partner, NYC restaurateur Danny Meyer, recently followed suit.

Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio is one of the pioneers in the no-tipping movement.

Meyer argues in a a letter that tipping is an antiquated concept, noting that in today’s day and age it may actually hold back restaurants and staff more than it helps them. By removing tipping, he writes, "the total cost you pay to dine with us won’t differ much from what you pay now," but as a result his Union Square Hospitality Group will be able to provide more stable, equitable compensation for their employees; that's because tips that go to servers don’t always benefit the cooks, hosts, dishwashers and other staff members who work to make your experience enjoyable.

Getting rid of tips would also mean fewer incidents like the one where NFL running back LeSean McCoy made headlines for leaving a 20-cent tip on a $60 bill. On the other side of the debate remain customers and staff members who believe that tipping is an important part of dining out. Joe’s Crab Shack made headlines in May when they announced they’d be ditching their no-tip policy, citing customer and worker complaints since they’d made the leap last year.

Other popular restaurants, like Roman’s in Brooklyn, ran into issues when staff members complained they were actually taking home less after making the switch to no-tip services. If you’ve ever lived in a city as expensive as NYC, you know suddenly taking home less money is not exactly a viable option.

For some restaurants, like Radius in Boston, eliminating tipping has meant raising menu prices by 15 to 20 percent.

Meyer himself admitted that enacting the policy across his restaurants wasn’t without its difficulties. Still, he believes it’s the right choice, telling Grubstreet “I would be the last one to say it’s easy, but it’s working really well for us.”

So what’s the right answer? Is one side making more sense than the other? Who knows whether the debate will ever die down, but stay tuned to find out if your favorite restaurants will be next to try ditching the status quo.

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