I'll Bite

The tipping debate: Is it time to end tipping?

Should the tip go away in favor of more fair pay?
Should the tip go away in favor of more fair pay?

So how do people feel about tipping? After hearing that Danny Meyer will end tipping at his New York restaurants, including The Modern, I asked people to weigh in Thursday. I’ve heard a lot. Here’s a roundup of some of the responses I’ve gotten from email and Facebook, edited for brevity and clarity:

End tipping:

▪ I say good riddance to tipping! It's like you're expected to tip almost anytime someone does something for you. I could understand if you're sitting down to a four course meal that's going to take 90 minutes of attention but at most restaurants there simply isn't a need for that level of service. What's worse is place is seeing tip jars at places where almost no special attention is needed. For the 3 minutes or less it takes to make my drink at Starbucks I need to tip? Most people who want tips aren't actually doing anything special. They're doing their jobs which is what their employer needs to be compensating them for. Not me.

▪ Customers may complain initially but the reality is they are paying more than the price listed on the menu, so what is there really to complain about? As someone who waited tables and bartended through college and even after college, closing the pay gap between kitchen and service staff is fair to all involved. Kitchen works so hard and often they are the ones pursuing their dreams and building their career. This might be hard to describe or understand for anyone who hasn't been a server, but there's this sense that some customers think they can treat you certain ways or push you, be picky, be needy, etc because there is that somewhat awkward relationship based around the looming question "how much is this person going to leave me?" The fact that the customer is tipping somehow gives them the sense that they can treat service staff however they please.

▪ I agree with Danny Meyer. It makes sense and is fair to all.

▪ It is a good thing. People are still free to give tips to the staff if they like the service. If tips are mandatory, it is not a tip, it is just a part of the price for eating there.

▪ If it means the kitchen and bus staff get paid more fairly, I'd be for it. The restaurant I worked at had exclusively college kids as wait staff and bartenders and I know we made a good bit more than the guys in the kitchen who had responsibilities like kids and mortgages that we didn't.

▪ Very European and fair – I like it.

▪ It should have always been that way!

Keep tipping:

▪ I like to tip. It gives me an opportunity to be gracious to hardworking, conscientious individuals. We generally tip more than is expected if the service is good. Wait staff providing poor service need the performance feedback in the form of lower tips. If they can't provide consistently good service they need to find something else to do!

▪ Reserve the right to judge and, thus, reward the level of service received. When the service is excellent, superior, it's rewarded accordingly. When the service is poor, it's rewarded accordingly.

▪ I was in the restaurant business for far too long to believe that servers and bartenders would not lose a ton of money this way. On a good night at an average restaurant, they can make $20-$30 an hour in tips, even more at higher-end places... there is no way they will make that being paid hourly or salary.

▪  Nope. Not for me. 20-year server. Nope.

▪ Why change something that's worked for 50 + years?

▪ The possible big winner with Danny Meyer adding a hospitality charge is New York and New York City. Let's just assume he does $80 million in fine dining. Add 20% on the top and you now have $16 million in added revenue. With quick rounding and a 9% sales tax, the state is getting a free $1.5 million. I suspect Cuomo will support this new plan.

Kathleen Purvis: 704-358-5236, @kathleenpurvis