Top US restaurant group to adopt no-tipping policy

NEW YORK • A restaurant group that includes some of Manhattan's most well-regarded dining spots said on Wednesday it will take the potentially revolutionary step in the United States of eliminating tipping.

Influential restaurateur Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group will begin rolling out the new policy late next month, bringing its establishments in line with practices in Europe, Asia and elsewhere, where tipping is either non-existent or, at most, perfunctory.

The company, which employs some 1,800 people at more than a dozen popular hot spots, including the Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe, said in a statement it arrived at the ground-breaking step "after a thoughtful, company-wide dialogue".

It explained that "countless laws and regulations... determine which positions in a restaurant may and may not share in gratuities", with cooks, reservationists and dishwashers left out as a result, despite their vital contributions.

The no-tipping policy will launch at The Modern, a posh restaurant at Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art.

The group did not specify how staff would be compensated for the loss of tips.

Reaction to the move online was swift, and decidedly mixed, with commenters calling it everything from "a godsend" to a "money grab" by owners. But most seemed interested to see how it plays out.

A handful of US eateries, most of them high-end, such as Manhattan's Per Se and The French Laundry, both in northern California, have instituted policies ranging from a mandatory flat percentage service charge to service included, with tips not expressly forbidden.

The change by Mr Meyer's high-profile group could prompt other fine-dining establishments to reconsider tipping.

Eater.com, the nationwide online site for foodies, noted that similar moves have been short-lived at other restaurants.

It called the move risky, in terms of losing customers put off by higher prices of about 21 per cent to 25 per cent initially, and staff resistance.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2015, with the headline 'Top US restaurant group to adopt no-tipping policy'. Print Edition | Subscribe