Restaurant owners, customers and staff have long railed against the tyranny of tipping, but like a love affair gone bad, it has proved difficult to quit. Now, prompted by a spurt of new minimum wage proposals in major cities, an expanding number of restaurateurs are experimenting with no-tipping policies as a way to manage rising labour costs.
In Seattle, where the first stage of a US$15-an-hour minimum wage law took effect in April, Ivar’s seafood restaurants switched to an all-inclusive menu. By raising prices 21 per cent and ending tipping, Bob C. Donegan, president and co-owner, calculated he could increase everyone’s wages.
“We saw there was a fundamental inequity in our restaurants where the people who worked in the kitchen were paid about half as much as the people who worked with customers in front of the house,” Donegan said.
Nearby, the Walrus and the Carpenter instituted a compulsory 20 per cent service charge. At Manos Nouveau and Sous Beurre, both in San Francisco, the menu prices include tips and taxes. Dirt Candy, an upscale eatery in New York, tacks on a 20 per cent administrative fee.