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As more restaurants go to a no-tipping policy, it would be nice to see states pass legislation requiring menus to state whether servers are receiving tipped worker wages or not.  There are so many order-at-the-counter places that have tip jars out, adding to the confusion.   Requiring a restaurant to list how much it pays its servers/hour might also have the benefit of educating foreign visitors. 

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Yes, legislation would make it easier but I don't actually think it would be that difficult for restaurants to handle it internally if they want to.  Service included written on the menu as well as removing the gratuity line from the Credit Card receipt would make it pretty clear for most people.  (I say most because there might be some people that still pay their tab with that archaic thing called "cash")

I was in Europe for a little while in August, some places have moved away from service included, but they all have the tip line which I found really annoying and frustrating, I see this as a great solution for tourists and locals as like.  They simply sign the amount that is stated and if they ask about tipping can then be told that the restaurant is service included and they don't accept tips.

On a side note....I'll never forget our experience in Beijing where we got chased down by a server.  We knew it's not a tipping culture but we were in a very off the beaten path restaurant that did everything they could to accommodate the language barrier.  Feeling like we were a pain in the a@# we left a tip on the table.  Our server chased us down to give it back to us, and even though we tried again she made it obvious that she was refusing to take it.

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This is how you do it:

"Danny Meyer Restaurants To Eliminate Tipping" by Pete Wells on nytimes.com

Just as in Europe:  One price, wages included.

But if Danny Meyer plans to keep servers' income steady and yet still significantly raise kitchen workers' pay, presumably the listed prices will have to be raised by more than 20-25%, no?

Will be interesting to watch.

Don, please feel free to move this to another thread, if appropriate.

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Don, please feel free to move this to another thread, if appropriate.

I will, but I want Sally's never to make another mistake with that sign again, so I'll leave it here until they read it.

They are *so close* to doing this right, and I'm pulling for them to succeed, but the wording on that chalkboard just cannot mislead the customers the way Rieux and I both saw it.

Sally's! Are you listening? You can do this! It's the path of the future and you're helping to pave it! And your food is darned good, too.

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"Bar Agricole and Trou Normand Bring Back Tipping" by Stephanie Tuder on sf.eater.com

The Conversion is going to be like switching to electric cars - it's not something the industry can just "do."

"In California, Electric Cars Outpace Plugs, and Sparks Fly" by Matt Richtel on nytimes.com

I, for one, am willing to put up with worse service for a few years at tip-free restaurants (*). Losing good servers (or those who think they're good because they make more money) is unavoidable collateral damage, and reinforces what I've been saying for years: Servers are overpaid relative to the rest of the staff. There are a lot of seriously mediocre servers out there making shockingly good incomes, while line cooks in back toil for something barely above minimum wage and have no health or disability insurance. I have been steadfast about this issue for years, and am not going to waver.

Isn't it significant that the article says they're losing servers, and not line cooks, or dishwashers, or runners?

(*) Listen up, diners: You're going to have to put up with it too; otherwise, the whole thing will fail.

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Say two restaurants are pretty close to equal, and we haven't had a standardize tipping policy. We can choose Rasika and Rasika West, for example. If the Palak Chaat is $10 at the place that has tipping and $12 at the place that doesn't, I'm certain that the lower cost place does better business, if the quality and food are the same. Psychology dictates that we are okay with the lower up front price, and that the tip is another segment of the meal. The restaurant that has tips will always seems less expensive, even though it isn't (unless you don't tip). If you do the inclusive service fee at the beginning, you marginalize yourself as more expensive, without necessarily adding value. If you do what Sally's did, you marginalize yourself as mandating tipping.

So... Until everyone flips, doing the service charge at the end is going to anger people that felt they didn't get good service. Doing the increased prices will marginalize the restaurant as being more expensive (a $40 steak will be $47).

My only thought would be to do what Sally's did, have the waiter briefly explain why they do it, and at the end, still offer that the patrons can reduce the service charge if they felt they were not served well. Some people will take advantage of that, most won't.

The only other better option is legislation to remove wait staff from below minimum wage group ($2.13/hr) and everyone either adds 10% with room to go up for better service, or raise the prices to get the salaries where they need to be.

Another very American problem...

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Say two restaurants are pretty close to equal, and we haven't had a standardize tipping policy. We can choose Rasika and Rasika West, for example. If the Palak Chaat is $10 at the place that has tipping and $12 at the place that doesn't, I'm certain that the lower cost place does better business, if the quality and food are the same. Psychology dictates that we are okay with the lower up front price, and that the tip is another segment of the meal. The restaurant that has tips will always seems less expensive, even though it isn't (unless you don't tip). If you do the inclusive service fee at the beginning, you marginalize yourself as more expensive, without necessarily adding value. If you do what Sally's did, you marginalize yourself as mandating tipping.

So... Until everyone flips, doing the service charge at the end is going to anger people that felt they didn't get good service. Doing the increased prices will marginalize the restaurant as being more expensive (a $40 steak will be $47).

My only thought would be to do what Sally's did, have the waiter briefly explain why they do it, and at the end, still offer that the patrons can reduce the service charge if they felt they were not served well. Some people will take advantage of that, most won't.

The only other better option is legislation to remove wait staff from below minimum wage group ($2.13/hr) and everyone either adds 10% with room to go up for better service, or raise the prices to get the salaries where they need to be.

Another very American problem...

Two-word reply: mink coats.

One-word reply: cigarettes.

Some ads with pictures of 60-year-old Latino dishwashers bent over because they can't stand up straight should start the process quite nicely.

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Presumably sales tax will apply to the whole bill, whereas we don't pay tax on tip now. So your cost of dining out will go up even more.

Fine with me, although service charges are only taxable if they're mandatory.

I look at it as overpaying $10,000 for a Prius.

"Toyota To Make Mostly Electric, Alt-Fuel Cars by 2050" by James Detar on news.investors.com

And let's not candy-coat this transition: It's going to cost us all more in the short-term.

Wouldn't I make a great (but unelectable) politician? :)

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Uh, oh:  Sally's thinks that its policy, in contrast to Meyer's, will be more amenable to customers:  It's "kind of our way of saying, "˜We're being open and honest with you. . . .  It's not going into our pocket.'"  Count me skeptical.  If you're so intent on assuring customers that you are paying your employees a living wage, why not simply say:  "The price for this modest plate of hash is $15.  That might seem high, but as with all of our prices, X% of the proceeds will be applied to labor costs for all our employees.  So please do not include any gratuity."

"Restaurant Industry Leader Danny Meyer Ends Tipping. Who Will Follow?" by Maura Judkis on washingtonpost.com

This is how you do it:

"Danny Meyer Restaurants To Eliminate Tipping" by Pete Wells on nytimes.com

Just as in Europe:  One price, wages included.  

But if Danny Meyer plans to keep servers' income steady and yet still significantly raise kitchen workers' pay, presumably the listed prices will have to be raised by more than 20-25%, no?

Will be interesting to watch.

Don, please feel free to move this to another thread, if appropriate.

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Uh, oh:  Sally's thinks that its policy, in contrast to Meyer's, will be more amenable to customers:  It's "kind of our way of saying, "˜We're being open and honest with you. . . .  It's not going into our pocket.'"  Count me skeptical.  If you're so intent on assuring customers that you are paying your employees a living wage, why not simply say:  "The price for this modest plate of hash is $15.  That might seem high, but as with all of our prices, X% of the proceeds will be applied to labor costs for all our employees.  So please do not include any gratuity."

"Restaurant Industry Leader Danny Meyer Ends Tipping. Who Will Follow?" by Maura Judkis on washingtonpost.com

I find it somewhat ironic that we've now quoted Maura Judkis probably 10 times, she's never once quoted us that I know of (yet we've been *the* website on the front line of this issue, bar none - we're not just "reporting" on it; we've been leading the change for years).

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Sam, I know you're reading this, and I know you know that I'm pulling for you, so please listen to me: I'm telling you in no uncertain terms that Danny Meyer's way is the best way - he has thought this through, and has the nationwide clout to help pull it off. Your method is better than nothing, and it's a start, but it's really not *that* different from a customer's viewpoint, and there needs to be unified work towards an industry standard which is the simplest way possible - building everything into the price of each individual item, and clearly stating that there is no tipping accepted, is the best and simplest way possible.

I again refer everyone in Washington, DC to The Swiss Bakery who has been on the cutting edge of this issue for years.

The ultimate ideal goes one step further than Danny Meyer: include sales tax in the prices as well. Then, state clearly on the menu the percentage of the price that is represented by tax (just like they do at gas stations) - the consumer wants to know how much they're going to pay, and ultimately doesn't care where the money goes at that particular moment. That's probably asking too much, and isn't necessary, but why not get everything on the table at the same time? If you order a $170 Danny Meyer tasting menu, order a $50 bottle of wine, and bring $220 in cash, guess what?

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108 posts above and the only comment I can see from an existing restaurant operator on the pros and cons was from RJ reporting the news that 2 San Francisco restaurants reversed prior policy and returned to tipping. And that was news, not his own perspective.  (that is fine) The San Fran restaurants gave their reasons as they couldn't retain good FOH staff.  The decisions changed after 10 months of experiments.

The single experiment I've seen that seemed extremely promising was at Bar Marco in Pittsburgh.   I have not seen any follow up stories.   Was this a "real" story or not or just some planted publicity?    I question it now in that there haven't been follow ups.  OTOH it impressed me when it first came out.

Frankly I think this is an experiment that is up to the operators.  All of the comments above and specifically the one's relating to "how customers might react" are exactly the concerns that restaurateurs have to consider.   In general will it draw more customers or less?  Will it sit well with staff?  All staff; or better with some and worse with others.     Frankly its all theory until one applies it.  On top of the comments above, other issues, not yet referenced could come into play.

A couple of other points:

1.  Applying an 18% (or so)  service charge/ or just adding it into the prices and stating no tipping, actually takes from one group, the FOH staff, and gives to the BOH staff.  It helps some and hurts others  In order to not penalize the FOH staff a restaurant might need to raise prices by something closer to 30%.   I think the Meyer group referenced price increases by about 30%.

2.  The Bar Marco article referenced significant changes in staff behavior and savings on certain operating costs.   That implies tremendous effort at training, and staff buying in with significant change in behavior.  That all requires an awful lot of training, management and leadership.   I frankly think that many operators simply don't apply an enormous amount of training.  I think you can see it again and again in comments about poor service.  Some of that is a result of less than great staff and some is from a lack of training.

3.  I suspect most operators will tell you that staff turns over like crazy.  So training is difficult, time consuming, endlessly repetitive, and its often wasted as staff could turn over rapidly in a relatively short time period.   The operators would need to speak to this.  Its astonishingly inconsistent with certain places retaining staff for very long time periods and others seeing an awful lot of turnover.

4.  Its ultimately a big risk and change.  I really believe its up to the operators.  Its their money on the line.

5.  I mostly don't care about the issue.  I tend to tip close to or around industry standards.  I know its high.  I know it rewards the FOH and not the BOH and I know that isn't optimal or "fair".  It is what it is, and Simul Parikh calls it an American problem, which I guess it is.  On some occasions where I've been a regular I've tipped certain BOH personnel that I've gotten to know, but that is rare for me, and it virtually never occurs.  I suppose that makes it irrelevant.

6.  Anyway good luck to the operators who give it a shot, and for those that do, at least the BOH personnel will see some rewards for at least a period of time and possibly everyone, but for that to happen I suppose the sun, moon, other planets, and stars will have to align to create a story that reads like the Bar Marco report.

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I was in Europe for a little while in August, some places have moved away from service included, but they all have the tip line which I found really annoying and frustrating, I see this as a great solution for tourists and locals as like.  They simply sign the amount that is stated and if they ask about tipping can then be told that the restaurant is service included and they don't accept tips.

There have been a lot of discussions on tipping on a (French) Caribbean site that I frequent and it seems that the "tips" line has started showing up on certain restaurant receipts in the last few years. Some of the frequent travelers (2 or more times a year) get very offended by this and either refuse to go to those places or refuse to tip. They see it as a blatant attempt to shake down American customers who don't know that a 20%+ tip isn't expected.

These same folks will leave 5 or so Euros in cash for the server as a thank you, but never on the credit card slip.

I don't know why or if any of this is relevant! :wacko:

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Frankly its all theory until one applies it.  

It's applied in France, and their servers, in general, are one *hell* of a lot better than ours. When I go to a restaurant in France - in the general case - I have no problem asking the server for recommendations; in the United States, I have *much* more confidence in my own ability to look around, to read the menu, and to come up with a better choice than the server recommends (in my case, which I admit is a special case, that applies to sommeliers as well).

I took a server's advice just last night, and regretted it to no end.

I can't tell you how many waitstaff (both servers and bartenders) I've come across in America who *don't even know the name of the chef*.

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What I meant by American problem is that we create an institution that is a lot of times not ideal, but a work around to solve a certain issue and then when it becomes unworkable, change is nearly impossible, due to the resistance of the players involved and because of severe path dependence. When international solutions are recognized and recommended, there is a consistent - "well that works great there, but it would never work here because of X, Y, and Z"

See: health care, tort, broadband/Internet, public education...

If everyone isn't subject to the same minimum wage policies, what is the real incentive for restaurants to move to this model? It's noble for Meyer or Bar Marco, but in many cases I bet people will try it and then just go back to the old way.

I just don't get how a bartender at a nice restaurant can clear $250 on a good shift, while the souz chef makes $100-150, and nobody in the back of the house revolts.

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 I can't tell you how many waitstaff (both servers and bartenders) I've come across in America who *don't even know the name of the chef*.

I witnessed this on multiple occasions. I think of it both sad and funny.

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I just don't get how a bartender at a nice restaurant can clear $250 on a good shift, while the souz chef makes $100-150, and nobody in the back of the house revolts.

In most restaurants there exists animosity between the BOH and the FOH. Mainly for the reason you mentioned. Bartenders in nice and busy restaurants can clear a hell of a lot mor than $250, BTW.

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What I meant by American problem is that we create an institution that is a lot of times not ideal, but a work around to solve a certain issue and then when it becomes unworkable, change is nearly impossible, due to the resistance of the players involved and because of severe path dependence. When international solutions are recognized and recommended, there is a consistent - "well that works great there, but it would never work here because of X, Y, and Z"

See: health care, tort, broadband/Internet, public education...

I assumed you meant "something" like the above, and you have articulated it in far greater depth.  Thanks.

If everyone isn't subject to the same minimum wage policies, what is the real incentive for restaurants to move to this model? It's noble for Meyer or Bar Marco, but in many cases I bet people will try it and then just go back to the old way.

I just don't get how a bartender at a nice restaurant can clear $250 on a good shift, while the souz chef makes $100-150, and nobody in the back of the house revolts.

That is a strong point in my mind.  On top of that BOH wages can be very low.  With high rents, high every other costs it is difficult to "make a buck".  Competition in this and other markets is always fierce and frankly in any region there are relatively few places similar to Rose's Luxury meaning that many restaurants struggle for traffic and customers.  So I suppose for operators to change, it will take a very large belief system, a leap of faith, and  extensive finger crossing to call on "the good luck gods".

Why don't the people in the BOH revolt when their wages are low and FOH staff "can" make big money on great nights?   Good question.   BTW  FOH income is very inconsistent in most places dependent on how busy the place is, the shifts, how well staffed or "over staffed" a place is, management adjusting schedules, and a host of other reasons, etc.

BTW:  from the perspective of the bar school we have seen 10's of thousands of people enter the F &B industry.  All types, from people with a long history in the industry to newcomers, young and old, and of all ethnicities and countries.   In our case, most of the people enter the industry as its an easier way to make income or additional income.   The percentage of people we see who view it as a career and have a burning desire to excel are very few and far between.  Admittedly we may attract fewer of those people, but I know that percentage is a tiny minority.  In a sense, too bad, as the F & B industry is one where one can move from dishwasher or lower position to very successful owner, all without "professional training or expensive schooling", if one has the drive and talents.  In many ways an astonishing opportunity, sort of the personification of the "American dream".*

*there are examples I know in this region.

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So, I count exactly two posts since the beginning of August that refer at all to the food at SMN. Everything else is about the tipping policy--and much of that not even specifically about the policy at SMN. I'm not saying it's an unimportant or even uninteresting subject, but why can't this be in the other tipping discussion forum, or create a separate "Sally's Middle Name Tipping Policy" discussion? Hell, create a "Rose's Luxury No-Reservations Policy" forum while we're at it. It feels like the larger dining experience is getting lost in these discussions of specific practices, and for those who want to know more about the former, it's getting tiresome. Not trying to shut down conversation, but at some point letting this go on so long in this space makes it seem like the restaurant is nothing but a particular policy, and I find that disheartening. I haven't eaten here for awhile, but if I had, I'd feel discouraged from reporting on my actual meal (or even linking to Sietsema's two-star review in this week's WaPo Magazine), because it'd get lost in the rest of the din--so why bother?

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I'm wondering: Is it possible to create a new string of forums around business and practice? It bugs me how some restaurant discussions like Sally's Middle Name, Rose's Luxury, and some others get hijacked about practice issues, but it seems like there are other issues that might fit under a new grouping--general service issues, tipping, reservations, Open Table, parking, etc. For now, these seem to get subsumed under "News and Media," or connected to a specific restaurant where something is regarded as an issue (Rose's no reservations, Sally's tipping policy). It might not be as large a grouping as the others, but it would give the restaurant forums more breathing room to talk about people's actual experiences.

(And no, Don, I'm NOT trying to create more work for you. It just seems like there must be a better way to deal with this stuff. And PLEASE, move this into a separate discussion thread whereever you regard appropriate. Thanks.)

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So, I count exactly two posts since the beginning of August that refer at all to the food at SMN. Everything else is about the tipping policy--and much of that not even specifically about the policy at SMN. I'm not saying it's an unimportant or even uninteresting subject, but why can't this be in the other tipping discussion forum, or create a separate "Sally's Middle Name Tipping Policy" discussion? Hell, create a "Rose's Luxury No-Reservations Policy" forum while we're at it. It feels like the larger dining experience is getting lost in these discussions of specific practices, and for those who want to know more about the former, it's getting tiresome. Not trying to shut down conversation, but at some point letting this go on so long in this space makes it seem like the restaurant is nothing but a particular policy, and I find that disheartening. I haven't eaten here for awhile, but if I had, I'd feel discouraged from reporting on my actual meal (or even linking to Sietsema's two-star review in this week's WaPo Magazine), because it'd get lost in the rest of the din--so why bother?

[Not to be a tool, but you know perfectly well that questioning website policy in the forums is verboten. As I said above, this will be moved, and in the meantime, we all await your review of SMN. :)]

(And also in the meantime, SMN is getting a ton of free publicity for being on the front lines. Or did I not mention that I'd be throwing my full support behind restaurants that eliminate tipping? (Which is why they need to get it right.))

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[Not to be a tool, but you know perfectly well that questioning website policy in the forums is verboten. As I said above, this will be moved, and in the meantime, we all await your review of SMN. :)]

(And also in the meantime, SMN is getting a ton of free publicity for being on the front lines. Or did I not mention that I'd be throwing my full support behind restaurants that eliminate tipping? (Which is why they need to get it right.))

Actually, Don, I didn't know that. What I don't know is where exactly to put certain posts, and it's frustrating to get second-guessed on things without warning, when I"m trying to do my best to respect you and the site. I'm not questioning your policy; I'm trying to raise in a constructive way ideas about how there might be ways to direct certain discussions to more appropriate forums, which is not the same thing as "questioning" policy. And this "free publicity" you are touting doesn't exactly encourage me to visit the place, since the talk about the tipping policy is mostly negative, and totally obscures whether SMN is actually worth visiting, policy be damned.

And I'll post a review if my income ever recovers enough that I can eat out more, which is unlikely in my current state of burnout.

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Actually, Don, I didn't know that. What I don't know is where exactly to put certain posts, and it's frustrating to get second-guessed on things without warning, when I"m trying to do my best to respect you and the site. I'm not questioning your policy; I'm trying to raise in a constructive way ideas about how there might be ways to direct certain discussions to more appropriate forums, which is not the same thing as "questioning" policy. And this "free publicity" you are touting doesn't exactly encourage me to visit the place, since the talk about the tipping policy is mostly negative, and totally obscures whether SMN is actually worth visiting, policy be damned.

And I'll post a review if my income ever recovers enough that I can eat out more, which is unlikely in my current state of burnout.

No worries - it's my responsibility to organize the posts. You're doing just fine, and the fact that I didn't know that means I need to write a Bill Of Rights (but I won't be able to come up with 10 things, since we only have about 5 rules, none of which are set in stone, but I think I should spell them out in a bullet list so everyone knows the very basic guidelines here, all but one being rooted in common courtesy (you managed to find the one that isn't; this one is to keep my life from being reduced to hellishness)).

SMN is absolutely worth visiting.

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