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Gin-slinging hottie Derek Brown suggests that tipping needs to go. I think I agree, which is why I stiffed that other gin-slinging hottie, Alexandra, last time I went to The Passenger. wink.gif

As a one-time server and a regular diner, I have a love/hate relationship with tipping. What better way to channel my inner vindictive bitch than stiffing some horrid, indifferent jerk? I can't can't do anything about the war in Afghanistan, the federal debt, my kids' grades or my credit card bills, but I can sure beat up on somebody making $2.77 an hour! On the other hand, since I'm a repressed middle class Caucasian male, I have a hard time expressing the brief but powerful luv that results from a well-orchestrated fine dining experience, so a generous tip gives me an opportunity to say "thank you" in a universal language.

I wonder if including a gratuity/wage in the price would drive down the dining urge. When that $18 entree goes over the $20 mark, or $35 steak pushes past $40, is there a psychological barrier that will keep people home? Also, to what extent are servers disciplined professionals as opposed to (and I say this affectionately, as a former consultant) shameless whores? I feel as though the guy who helped make my solo experience at the French Laundry (where the service charge is included in the price) a memorable one could not have been better if I'd been throwing twenties at him throughout service. On the other hand, the hipster slinging Dale's Pale Ale at the Red Derby may need the positive Pavlovian feedback of a crisp fin every round or two to keep them attentive.

And, there's also the implied bribe/freebie relationship with good buddies -- where the tip mysteriously grows larger as the tab mysteriously grows smaller.

So, the tipping economy: a system created by and for passive-aggressive control freaks, or the free market in its purest -- and most effective -- form?

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I feel as though the guy who helped make my solo experience at the French Laundry (where the service charge is included in the price) a memorable one could not have been better if I'd been throwing twenties at him throughout service. On the other hand, the hipster slinging Dale's Pale Ale at the Red Derby may need the positive Pavlovian feedback of a crisp fin every round or two to keep them attentive.

There's your answer: it depends. A European-style gratuity-included system would work at high-end places, but I don't think it would work that well otherwise. But a mixed system would produce legions of confused diners, especially if they're from out of town. I think the whole culture of waiting tables in the US--the way the work is perceived, the ranks from which waiters and waitresses are drawn and the way they are trained (or not)--would have to change fundamentally before tips are abolished in favor of a gratuity-included system. In the meantime, I value the decision-making power the tipping system gives the customer; some of the worst service I've had has been in non-tipping systems, and it's frustrating when 15% of your tab automatically rewards such service.

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I think we should change all professions - hell, the entire economy - to be tip-based.

"And you'd better not mess up this appendectomy!"

"What do you mean my car needs a new transmission?"

"Sorry, your hotel room just didn't tickle my fancy."

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I've waited tables in an non-tip economy (in Australia, in fact!). I made $12/hour in the mid nineties, which at the time was the minimum legal wage you could pay someone for that work. (Incidentally, that was EXACTLY the same amount of money I made at my first job in the US a year later. For that money in the US, I was teaching kids in college.)

In my experience in both tip and non-tip economies, the level of service doesn't really change much whether or not there is tipping. Whether or not you are good at your job and nice to people is much more dependent on personality--there are good and bad servers on both sides of this coin (no pun intended). What you DON'T get in non-tip economies is precisely the relationship Waitman described above where you foster a relationship with a bartender at your regular.

But changing from a tip to a non-tip economy would be a big cultural shift. When I first came to the US, I found tipping very difficult. I fundamentally didn't get how the interpersonal interaction was supposed to go. I am not the boss of this person, but I am expected to pay them. Do I hand the money over? Do I leave the money on the table? (If you did that where I'm from, it wouldn't be there by the time the waiter came by to clear up.) So I imagine there would be similar cultural shifts going the other way--and Choirgirl, I'd love to hear more about your experiences in Australia--especially how much of the difference you think is attributable to non-tipping, and how much just to cultural difference.

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Pretty much everytime I've gone to a Chinatown Chinese restaurant (particularly Chinatown Express), I've often seen a table leave and, seconds later, the server running after those customers. The Chinese server explains to the (usually European) diner that in America, you're supposed to tip 15%, and would you please give me another $5? I know that's off-topic somewhat, but had to share, it gets me everytime.

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I don’t mind tipping. I mentally add about 30% a tab while ordering. I would actually prefer a wider spread to be in vogue – 25-30% for exceptional service, 18% for good service, 5-10% for negligent service, and 1 cent for terrible service. If everyone did that rather than be polite and give 15% to gibbering idiots, maybe we would all get good service in restaurants.

In my practice, that philosophy runs aground when the food is good but the service is appalling. So I want to stiff the imbecile, but then I'm afraid someone will spit in my food next time.

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So does this mean the Passenger has moved to a "service charge included" system?

This came up on Twitter between Derek and Fritz Hahn.

Columbia Room (Derek's part, where it's a flat fee system) has salaried employees.

Passenger, apparently, is more Tom's domain. He didn't comment that I saw, but I don't think he's on the Twitters.

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Pretty interesting that the restaurant already Kept the Tips, and paid salaries, yet when they banned tipping they jacked the prices 15%.

Also, the customer in the article said she was happy with the policy BUT if service was bad she would want the old system back

I think a no tipping world would be great, but prices would go up and everyone would have to take the bad with the good.

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NYTimes Magazine article by a classmate, done algorithmically.

You went to school with Nate Silver!?!? Wow.

For those that don't know him, in the last election, he successfully predicted the electoral outcome of every single state and (I think) all the congressional elections. He was predicting Obama to win by a wide margin for months prior to the election and was the whipping boy of lots of right wing media outlets as being just another liberal media type shilling for Obama. Turns out, he's just a guy who pours over tons of data, does some statistical analysis and and bats at nearly 1000 in the prediction business.

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This is long--a series of multiple blog posts, but one of the best things I've read recently. http://jayporter.com/dispatches/observations-from-a-tipless-restaurant-part-1-overview/

An extended essay on tipping from the point of view of a San Diego restarauteur who implemented a straight service charge and disallowed tipping in his establishment. He has a lot to say on why he thinks eliminating tipping made his restaurant better--because it meant that the employees were paid by the person who had the most at stake in making the restaurant good, namely their employer, rather than their customers, who have as a key goal making their own dining experience good. And that it means that servers don't act to maximize tips but are more likely to act to maximize performance (which is a different thing).

He also has a lot of very interesting stuff to say about people who get pissed off when they can't tip--that basically one of the things that he learned was that some people like the kind of power relation that emerges when they get to reward or punish their server; and also a lot to say about how servers and management use stereotypes to figure out who they think is likely to tip more, and how this means that some folks get worse service because it is assumed they will tip less.

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This is another example from Pittsburgh that has gotten a lot of attention online, offline and even including national TV.

"Hold That Tip: Strip District Restaurant Bar Marco To Embrace National Trend, But Will Pittsburgh Follow?" by Melissa McCart on post-gazette.com

It will be fascinating to see how these cases play out. These entrepreneurs are trail blazers with big hearts you have to admire. On the other hand, no one benefits when restaurants struggle or go out of business. The management theory being tested here is whether there are durable links between more predictable server compensation, retention/productivity and overall business profit. I sure hope so. It would be transformative if these efforts prove successful.

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Here is a lousy story, which I'm reporting second hand.  Somebody in the industry was griping and showed me his/her CC receipt for a meal at a restaurant.  The person, as is their standard form of operating, had a meal at a restaurant, paid with a cc and wrote in 0 on the tip total.  Then included cash.  They referenced the amount they left.

The recipient wrote in a tip  (20% less than the cash that was left).   RATS.  Double dipping.

The person who had the meal was from the industry and tends to leave large tips (better than 15 or 20%) and leaves them as cash, thus favoring the server and giving them more flexibility than what is reported to or by the restaurant.

Very lousy response by the server.   Its the kind of restaurant that I'd never return to and its the kind of server that I'd make sure I never had serve me again.   Most people in the FOH are extremely appreciative of that type of gratuity in terms of amount, percentage and form of payment.

....and then some ruin it for the industry.

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Here is a lousy story, which I'm reporting second hand. Somebody in the industry was griping and showed me his/her CC receipt for a meal at a restaurant. The person, as is their standard form of operating, had a meal at a restaurant, paid with a cc and wrote in 0 on the tip total. Then included cash. They referenced the amount they left.

The recipient wrote in a tip (20% less than the cash that was left). RATS. Double dipping.

The person who had the meal was from the industry and tends to leave large tips (better than 15 or 20%) and leaves them as cash, thus favoring the server and giving them more flexibility than what is reported to or by the restaurant.

Very lousy response by the server. Its the kind of restaurant that I'd never return to and its the kind of server that I'd make sure I never had serve me again. Most people in the FOH are extremely appreciative of that type of gratuity in terms of amount, percentage and form of payment.

....and then some ruin it for the industry.

That's not about the industry. It's about the individual. And, "double dipping" is but a euphemism for dishonesty. There are dishonest people in all industries, all roles and all levels. Luckily, the great majority are honest.

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That's not about the industry. It's about the individual. And, "double dipping" is but a euphemism for dishonesty. There are dishonest people in all industries, all roles and all levels. Luckily, the great majority are honest.

I often do that (pay with credit but leave a cash tip), though I don't dine at fancy restaurants so much as bars and such. I hope it doesn't come across as annoying or weird, though I don't see why it would.

Just to let you know, many restaurants (I won't say most) would prefer the entire bill, including tip, be left on the card for this very reason. Have you ever been at a bar for a couple of hours, and then the bartender says, "This last one's on me?" Well, that's often so you'll leave a larger tip, and he's using house money to entice you with, so has nothing to lose.

I was once at Giordano's at Chicago, paid cash for a drink, and saw the bartender ring up a no-sale at the register. It happens, more often than we'd like to think - keeping things digital is one way of keeping things more on the up-and-up. Of course you have the other case of restaurateurs stealing money from their customers, the government, or their employees, so it can work both ways.

"50 Ways Employees Steal From Your Bar Or Restaurant" on blog.bodellconsulting.com (coincidentally, I've already covered #1 and #50).

Other than The Swiss Bakery, are there currently any area restaurants that refuse tips? I remember some talk about it recently, but can't remember if any have opened, or are still open (I believe The Columbia Room was one?). What I *can* remember is promising I'd tout the ones who don't take tips, and this is why I keep mentioning The Swiss Bakery (and incidentally, I have them ranked above Georgetown Cupcake in The Dining Guide, but that's because even though I like Georgetown Cupcake well enough, I think The Swiss Bakery has better product). Why are they never mentioned in the media?

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 Just to let you know, many restaurants (I won't say most) would prefer the entire bill, including tip, be left on the card for this very reason. 

Maybe.  I wouldn't know across the board.  What it does do is add a total..probably somewhere in the 10-20% of gross sales in tips on the total cc processing and then the merchant pays a cc processing fee on FOH tips.

Not a big deal overall, but a big deal if the restaurant is not doing great.  CC fees can add up and overall if they weren't there that would pay for a lot of other overhead.

I often do that (pay with credit but leave a cash tip), though I don't dine at fancy restaurants so much as bars and such. I hope it doesn't come across as annoying or weird, though I don't see why it would.

FOH people love it.  If you are paying in cash, the server has discretion on what they declare for tax purposes.  It really helps them out.

The topic of tips is a gray area topic in my experience.  There are experienced and great FOH personnel.  They probably make a lot through tips and wouldn't want to see it go.   (That has been referenced elsewhere)  On the other hand, theoretically if it was aboloshed and BOH earned more...that would be a plus for some in the restaurant industry.

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Although this policy has not been finalized, Black Iron Pizza does not take tips!

I'd love to see this become pervasive but think it pretty unlikely simply because restaurant survival will always trump any social cause, hie ever good. And, the kind of systemic/industry/governmental change needed is at odds with too many powerful vested interests, including those of the best and most sought-after servers.

As always, can never say never and hope I'm proven wrong.

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"Why Some Restaurants Are Doing Away With Tipping" by Maura Judkis on washingtonpost.com

The inherent issue I see for tipping to go away is how do restaurants really compete evenly when some refuse to ditch the practice and others maintain it?  The article points out that some restaurants choose to implement a standard fee to all dining checks as an administrative charge. The example given was 20%. This, in essence, is implementing a systemic tip for all, without forcing the restaurant owner to actually raise prices. Others indicate their desire to just raise their prices 15 to 20% overall. But the latter restaurant owners face handicapping themselves by doing so since all of their prices will appear higher than competing restaurants. Additionally, the local sales/dining taxes for the restaurant will go up if the price per dish goes up as opposed to the restaurant owners choosing instead to impose an administrative fee (assuming the admin fee is not sales/dining taxable, which may also vary by given local taxing districts (adding further confusion).

For the diner, looking at two similar restaurant menus (online or in person), one place has higher prices (even if they indicate no tipping) while the other place has lower prices (and probably fine-prints the admin fee). Further, places that refuse to leave the tipping practice at all, those places look even cheaper, leaving the concept of tipping to the diner, still.

It's a mess and will be more so as places experiment with what works and what does not.  It sure would be a lot easier if the government come up with rules to abolish the practice systemically, but I am sure those that prefer to 'let the markets decide' would cry bloody murder over government interference.

Ah well.

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The article points out that some restaurants choose to implement a standard fee to all dining checks as an administrative charge. The example given was 20%.

This is still a gratuity.  Literally the only difference between this and the system that we currently operate under is that if I suck as a server, you're allowed to express that by docking my tip.

Meanwhile, since it's an "administrative charge," and not actually a gratuity, that means that the restaurant can legally take part of it for themselves even though they're implying that it's really a gratuity.

How is this better than the current setup, exactly?

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This is still a gratuity.  Literally the only difference between this and the system that we currently operate under is that if I suck as a server, you're allowed to express that by docking my tip.

Meanwhile, since it's an "administrative charge," and not actually a gratuity, that means that the restaurant can legally take part of it for themselves even though they're implying that it's really a gratuity.

How is this better than the current setup, exactly?

The one enacting the policy would say it enables her to better distribute deserved rewards across more of her staff.

My answer:  It's not.

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Article today....interesting.

Saw that article also and thought it so interesting, especially in light of conversations about this topic at DR, earlier reference to this restaurant in DR etc.

Who whouldda thunk through all of that and expected the results being reported.  That story suggests follow up with customers and with employees.

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I don't understand this relationship, but maybe someone does???
 
From the article in the link above:

"Since getting rid of tipping on April 1, profits have increased from about $3,000 a week to $9,000.
"Our water bill was cut in half, our linen bill was cut in half, our liquor inventory was lean," Fry told Entrepreneur, crediting it all to greater employee cognizance."

How does employee cognizance lower the linen bill or affect the liquor inventory? And could those things really make a $6K difference per week?!?!

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The article referenced by PoolBoy on the 18th is so interesting for restaurateurs and for people who work in the industry.  It describes how profits have soared for the Pittsburgh restaurant that dropped tipping and added a surcharge.

Revenues have gone up.  Maybe that is because the surcharge.  But it could be other things.  It could be that the staff is working really hard and smart, upselling, and giving such great service that more customers are coming, there is more positive word of mouth and reviews.   Maybe.  We don't know the details.

Some costs dropped a lot.  Boy is that interesting.  It could be both a function of the change in pay and the granting of ownership shares of stock by the owner to employees...but I bet its a lot more.

When water bills drop and laundry costs drop it means the management has communicated and the staff has bought in to items that have a dear dear effect on the bottom line.

The owner or bill payer isn't able to turn off every faucet, or filter every piece of linen before it goes to the cleaner.  The staff is buying into that and acting on it because it matters to them.  They get pay.  They get a share of profits.  They now have health benefits.   It means more to them.  If the costs that can be controlled are being controlled...they are sharing in the benefits.

Its a great story.  I'd like to know more.

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The article referenced by PoolBoy on the 18th is so interesting for restaurateurs and for people who work in the industry.  It describes how profits have soared for the Pittsburgh restaurant that dropped tipping and added a surcharge.

Revenues have gone up.  Maybe that is because the surcharge.  But it could be other things.  It could be that the staff is working really hard and smart, upselling, and giving such great service that more customers are coming, there is more positive word of mouth and reviews.   Maybe.  We don't know the details.

Some costs dropped a lot.  Boy is that interesting.  It could be both a function of the change in pay and the granting of ownership shares of stock by the owner to employees...but I bet its a lot more.

When water bills drop and laundry costs drop it means the management has communicated and the staff has bought in to items that have a dear dear effect on the bottom line.

The owner or bill payer isn't able to turn off every faucet, or filter every piece of linen before it goes to the cleaner.  The staff is buying into that and acting on it because it matters to them.  They get pay.  They get a share of profits.  They now have health benefits.   It means more to them.  If the costs that can be controlled are being controlled...they are sharing in the benefits.

Its a great story.  I'd like to know more.

Me too!

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This is really unfortunate.  Did you speak with a manager?  Establishing a reputation for good service is important for any new restaurant, but especially for one trying to upend the tipping culture.

I'm sure Sally's Middle Name knows I'm a fan of theirs and want to help them. They'd be doing customers a favor if they would simply raise their prices on every item by 18% and not add it at the end. The problem is that things that are a nice, round figure such as $6 are going to be odd prices like $7.08, and therein lies the rub.

But a solution would be to price certain things at $7, and others at $7.25, and make it all work out in the end. And yet, they're still obligated to keep an accounting of "sales price" vs. "service charge" and that puts an additional burden on them. I suppose they could just multiply their total revenues by 15.25%, and that would equal an 18% service charge (trust me, non-accountants, it would). :)

A somewhat lesser solution (but still a solution) would be to *clearly state* that they add an 18% service charge on top of the bill, and that they don't accept tips (I kind of thought they did this, but I guess I'm wrong).

You know, I suspect this isn't an institutional issue, so much as one employee writing the wrong thing on the chalkboard - they've made it pretty clear what they're doing. Instead of, "No need to tip, service is included," the board should say "We add an 18% service charge to your bill so all our employees are fairly compensated - there is no need to tip." (That's a bit verbose, but I'm sure they can figure it out.) 

I really think this is a one-off incident. Rieux, you should keep in mind that the servers here are not up-selling you so they can get additional tip money - that, in and of itself, is a big deal, and something we should all be supporting. It could ultimately lead to a "server" being a profession rather than a job, and that's what I've been fighting for over the past ten years.

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As it regards the service and the non tipping "strategy".....

I was underwhelmed last night.  My friend and I got there at 8:30 and were able to get a table for 2 immediately.  My main criticisms, which are substantial, are the service and the noise.  The food was fine, but no where near good enough to make up for the other two issues.

We ordered a small plate of the kohlrabi salad and the fried pickled chard stems, a beer, and a glass of wine.  Starting up front, and throughout the meal, service was awful.  There were at least 4 servers for the small restaurant, but none seemed particularly invested in our table, and the service was 100% inattentive.  To start, our two plates came out, and my friend's beer, and it was at least 15 minutes until I got my glass of wine.  And, I was unable to tell anyone I was still waiting, as not a single one of the servers, who rushed by the table, paused long enough for me to even be able to catch their eye or to call out to them.  Finally I got my wine later.  The kohlrabi salad was fine.  Not bad, not great.  It was something I could make at home.  I loved the pickled chard stems, and I think they were one of the highlights of the meal.  We ordered some more plates, but noticed that they were already out of 2 of the 4 meat dishes by 8:30 -- there were substitutes, but they were not terribly interesting -- a chicken breast and thigh.  We decided to order the rabbit leg, the quail, the beans and tomatoes, 2 corns, and shitake mushrooms with pesto.  They came out in dribs and drabs, but the dirty plates were rarely taken away when new dishes were dropped, which I thought was weird, as the server was right there.  They didn't stay long enough for me to ask them to take the dirty dishes away.  That was frustrating.

Of the food, the rabbit was fine (basically tasted like fried chicken), the beans and tomatoes were the other best dish of the night, the corn was just like any elote I have had in Mexico or on the street, the quail was briny, with lots of capers, but tough and a minuscule portion for the price, and the mushrooms were mushrooms with pesto - nothing special.  We each ordered another glass of wine, and had dessert - blueberry pie with peach ice cream (which had no discernible peach flavor) and poundcake with tart cherries for me (which was a butter-soaked toasted pound cake that was too rich).

None of the food was bad, but none of it was amazing.  I felt like I could make all these things at home, armed with a stable of Ottolenghi's cookbooks.  The noise was terrible.  I am young, I like to party, but man!  First, a loud table of 6 people in their twenties took the table by the window and proceeded to scream, yell, and be obnoxious all night, but they were encouraged by the waiter, who would spend minutes on end with them hooting and hollering (perhaps contributing to our poor service, but hey, there were 3 other waiters, where were they?)  Most of the other patrons in the restaurant looked around annoyed, but the waiter continued to goad the table on.  Second, the acoustics are weird. We were sitting near the bar, and when I went to the bathroom, over all the noise, I could hear my friend ordering our dessert from far away, in a closed room.  Sound REALLY carries.

Finally, we were annoyed by the service charge.  Not by its existence, but by its execution.  The menu board says "No need to tip, service is included".  Verbatim.  So, one would assume that the prices on the menu board include service.  But, that is not the case, the bill has a service charge added ON TOP of the menu prices.  So, perhaps saying that "serivce is included" is not the best approach.  Given the horrible service we had, maybe we were just touchy, but it galled us to realize this when we got the bill.  I don't think I'll be back.

The service was lousy and non attentive.   Here is a reference to the restaurant in Pittsburgh that had gotten acclaim for converting to a non tipping policy.   But they did a lot more:

The article referenced by PoolBoy on the 18th is so interesting for restaurateurs and for people who work in the industry.  It describes how profits have soared for the Pittsburgh restaurant that dropped tipping and added a surcharge.

Revenues have gone up.  Maybe that is because the surcharge.  But it could be other things.  It could be that the staff is working really hard and smart, upselling, and giving such great service that more customers are coming, there is more positive word of mouth and reviews.   Maybe.  We don't know the details.

Some costs dropped a lot.  Boy is that interesting.  It could be both a function of the change in pay and the granting of ownership shares of stock by the owner to employees...but I bet its a lot more.

When water bills drop and laundry costs drop it means the management has communicated and the staff has bought in to items that have a dear dear effect on the bottom line.

The owner or bill payer isn't able to turn off every faucet, or filter every piece of linen before it goes to the cleaner.  The staff is buying into that and acting on it because it matters to them.  They get pay.  They get a share of profits.  They now have health benefits.   It means more to them.  If the costs that can be controlled are being controlled...they are sharing in the benefits.

Its a great story.  I'd like to know more.

They gave staff profit sharing.  Various costs went down and profits increased.  Staff got higher salaries and benefits including health care.  It would be interesting to get further follow ups to see if the trends from that article have continued.

It would appear that the experience described above is so different from what was reported about the Pittsburgh restaurant.  Pittsburgh probably saw a big improvement in efforts by the staff.  Here on H Street, not so much.   And frankly a server goading loud customers to get louder might be funny in a neighborhood bar or a college bar but not in a restaurant.  Miles to go on this one.

Frankly I'm not bothered by tipping.  If the restaurant is going to add a service charge I'm not going to tip.  I'd expect that they tried to implement what seems to be implemented in Pittsburgh.   If not...then its a meaningless change in my mind.

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This is really unfortunate.  Did you speak with a manager?  Establishing a reputation for good service is important for any new restaurant, but especially for one trying to upend the tipping culture.

We didn't as it was totally unclear which member of the crazed staff running around was the manager, and, by this point we just wanted to get out of there and go home.  I almost always tip 20%, so it wasn't the amount or the fact that there was a service charge, it was the way it was communicated.  I didn't want to complain and either have the manager think I didn't get the concept of a service charge, or think I was complaining to be cheap.

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I was waiting for this issue to come up (I wasn't going to be the one to open the can of worms). Adding an 18% service charge is not a 'no tipping policy' -- it's a mandatory tipping policy. Workers are still relying on covers and checks to bolster their earnings, customers are adding to their bill total (and not at their discretion). A no tipping culture exists at a pub in England when a beer costs £3.80 and you hand the bartender £3.80 and walk away with said beer.

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I was waiting for this issue to come up (I wasn't going to be the one to open the can of worms). Adding an 18% service charge is not a 'no tipping policy' -- it's a mandatory tipping policy. Workers are still relying on covers and checks to bolster their earnings, customers are adding to their bill total (and not at their discretion). A no tipping culture exists at a pub in England when a beer costs £3.80 and you hand the bartender £3.80 and walk away with said beer.

There really is a difference between a service charge and a tip. The service charge goes to the restaurant, gets pooled among all non-management workers (at least in theory), and wards off virtually all incentive of an up-sell (at least on a one-on-one basis, where the entire tip from the up-sell goes into the server's pocket - that $8 dessert the server just talked you into buying gets the server an extra $1.50 in tip). That alone is a big difference, and I would argue that simply "raising their prices 18% across the board" is also a mandatory service charge, the difference being that diners like Rieux aren't ever led down the wrong path.

All this said, from a diner's perspective, it's all pretty much one-and-the-same, and that's why I think restaurants should raise prices and *not* add the service charge to the total. I will again cite our area's shining-star example of leadership on this front: The Swiss Bakery. They have my undying loyalty.

Another philosophical question: What's the difference between adding sales tax at the end, and adding the service charge at the end? (Yes, I think it would be wonderful if every business displayed prices that included sales tax as well, so the customer knew *exactly* what they'd be paying for something, but I see this as the exact same situation, with the exception that sales tax is more commonly accepted as being an add-on.) It's that psychological game of seeing a price that says $9.95 instead of $13.10, and it's partially the customers' fault for succumbing to this sales tactic so easily. Interestingly, do you know what businesses are absolute leaders on this front? Gas stations.

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None of the food was bad, but none of it was amazing.  I felt like I could make all these things at home, armed with a stable of Ottolenghi's cookbooks.  The noise was terrible.  I am young, I like to party, but man!  First, a loud table of 6 people in their twenties took the table by the window and proceeded to scream, yell, and be obnoxious all night, but they were encouraged by the waiter, who would spend minutes on end with them hooting and hollering (perhaps contributing to our poor service, but hey, there were 3 other waiters, where were they?)  Most of the other patrons in the restaurant looked around annoyed, but the waiter continued to goad the table on.  Second, the acoustics are weird. We were sitting near the bar, and when I went to the bathroom, over all the noise, I could hear my friend ordering our dessert from far away, in a closed room.  Sound REALLY carries.

Finally, we were annoyed by the service charge.  Not by its existence, but by its execution.  The menu board says "No need to tip, service is included".  Verbatim.  So, one would assume that the prices on the menu board include service.  But, that is not the case, the bill has a service charge added ON TOP of the menu prices.  So, perhaps saying that "serivce is included" is not the best approach.  Given the horrible service we had, maybe we were just touchy, but it galled us to realize this when we got the bill.  I don't think I'll be back.

This comment about service (or the acoustics) doesn't totally surprise me. I didn't really want to share this, but there is at least one person on the wait staff there whose behavior borders on the unprofessional and even inappropriate. There's a line between being friendly and trying to be friends with your customers and co-workers, and I think the owners need to be better attuned to that behavior and reining it in. On my first visit, this guy was practicing tai chi moves in the kitchen area to entertain his co-workers, which was a bit discomfiting--even if the place is nearly empty, you still have customers, and you're on the clock. The next visit, he pulled up on the stool next to me and got very palsy-walsy with me, nearly to the point of oversharing (I honestly wondered if he was stoned). Yes, have a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, but please--boundaries (and leading table cheers? C'mon, this isn't Chuck E. Cheese).

And yeah, I agree that the execution of the service charge is annoying. Most of what's bothersome about the place is fixable, but sometimes it feels like landing in an episode of "Portlandia," relocated to DC.

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