Wednesday, October 21, 2015

To tip or not to tip?

News item: Influential New York restaurateur announces an end to the practice of tipping.

Danny Meyer Restaurants to Eliminate Tipping, by Pete Wells (New York Times)

In a sweeping change to how most of its 1,800 employees are paid, the Union Square Hospitality Group will eliminate tipping at Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe and its 11 other restaurants by the end of next year, the company’s chief executive, Danny Meyer, said on Wednesday.

The move will affect New York City businesses that serve 40,000 to 50,000 meals a week and range from simple museum cafes to some of the most popular and acclaimed restaurants in the country. The first will be the Modern, inside the Museum of Modern Art, starting next month. The others will gradually follow ...

Personally, I've always favored the approach practiced in much of Europe, wherein a service charge is included, and one merely rounds up. Travel expert Rick Steves explains the way it works in Europe.

Restaurant tips are more modest in Europe than in America. At restaurants, check the menu to see if service is included; if it isn’t, a tip of 5–10 percent is normal. In most places, 10 percent is a big tip. If your bucks talk at home, muzzle them on your travels. As a matter of principle, if not economy, the local price should prevail. Please believe me — tipping 15 or 20 percent in Europe is unnecessary, if not culturally ignorant.

Here's the other side of the coin.

Eliminating tips won’t make things fairer for workers, by Daniel Levinson Wilk (Al Jazeera)

I’m a big fan of Danny Meyer’s. The CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group, the founder of Shake Shack and an all-around nice guy, he is a pioneer of some excellent trends in the restaurant industry, including the local sourcing of food, patronage of farmers’ markets, a strong commitment to revitalizing the surrounding community and the seamless melding of high and low culture in cuisine.

He’s also committed to treating staff well and prioritizing their needs above those of more powerful stakeholders such as investors, suppliers and customers. I have known several of his employees, and all speak of him in glowing terms. Every fall I take a contingent of students at the Fashion Institute of Technology to meet with a manager at the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. Most of my students will end up in the garment industry, which is notorious for condoning some of the worst working conditions in the world, and I hope that Meyer’s egalitarian business philosophy will rub off on them.

But his latest plan to replace tipping with a “hospitality included” policy at his restaurant empire is a false step. His motives are just — improving wages and wage security for waiters, decreasing the gap in wages between waiters and other restaurant employees such as cooks and dishwashers, creating fairer systems for recognizing and rewarding excellent work and eliminating the discomfort that some patrons feel with tipping. He is also motivated by some other factors that are self-interested but not selfish — a shortage of good chefs in the industry, the need to stay ahead of the coming wage hike for fast-food workers, perhaps the spate of tip-theft lawsuits that has exploded over the past decade. Other high-end restaurateurs such as Thomas Keller have also instituted no-tip policies in recent years, though Meyer’s plan to eliminate the tip line on credit card slips is more radical. But if he hopes to make restaurants better for workers and customers, his method is wrong ...

I can't imagine this issue being resolved in my lifetime, so I'll leave with this quote by actor (and mathematician) Danica McKellar.

If a guy is skilled at anything, that's attractive. There's something very primal about that and, sure, it can be as simple as figuring out the tip quickly. It's really cool when a guy tips 20 percent quickly and effortlessly so that when the check comes, he opens it and signs his name and done.

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