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Feb 20, 2008 11:27 AM

Restaurants that don't require tipping

Are there any restaurants out there that don't require tipping? I think it would be refreshing to see a place that pays it wait staff a living wage rather than having them rely on tips. It works in other places around the world, I think it could work state-side as well.

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  1. The problem w/ this is that obviously their prices are going to be higher. At the end of the day it might work out the same for the customer (or even cheaper!), but people are stupid. Most folks will look at the menu, see the higher prices, neglect to do the mental math ("well gee, I really should be deducting 15-20% from this price") and declare the place to be overpriced.

    Personally, I'd love to see this model be adopted in our society though. I *hate* all of the nonsense that tipping creates - arguments about appropriate amounts, entitled waitstaff, etc. Pay the waitstaff more (how much would depend on the place, but would obviously no longer be able to be sub-minimum wage), do away with tips. Make it like pretty much every other job out there.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jgg13

      I see that perspective and there might be some merit to it, BUT my response would be that restaurant food is already an extremely wide range of prices. I think a place like Applebee's or the like would have a hard time but your neighborhood cuisine type place wouldn't have any problem altering their prices for this approach. I think the best chance for this to succeed would be places that put a premium on the quality of their food, the type of place you shouldn't go to wearing blue jeans.

    2. There's one restaurant in my neighborhood (Baltimore) that not only doesn't require tipping, but doesn't allow it. It is an upscale pizza place. Neopolitan type crust and some pastas. It's not fancy by any means. Its prices are slightly higher but not overly so and they tend to be always crowded. They are also BYOB which is a plus. It's nice to know when you sit down that the price on the menu is what your meal will cost.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jes

        But I'll also point out that they have no table service, so that doesn't really apply. We are talking Iggie's, right?

        1. re: JonParker

          yes Iggies. Even though you order at the counter they still bring you your food and bus your table. At other such establishments tre would be lengthy debate on whether or not to tip.

      2. I can only surmise and say 99% of all restaurant dining is for tables less than 8 seats and therefore not subject to any service charges imposed by the house. With that said, it would be quite RARE for ANY restaurant to require tipping for their servers in any restaurant. The appreciation for service is "Requested and Appreciated", not required nor mandatory.

        There are some who choose never to tip any time or any where they dine out and ................ I will leave to the imagination of others to describe those guests by name.

        3 Replies
        1. re: fourunder

          Yeah it is "requested and appreciated" but I imagine there is a reason you put it in quotes.... because it really isn't a choice. For the most part probably in the high 80% - 90% of people assume it is necessary.

          1. re: babaoriley7


            ,,,assume it is necessary,

            Of course it necessary. It called earnings and income to live and support your family. The act of a gratuity is still a choice.........and the choice has consequences real or perceived.

            1. re: babaoriley7

              I find it's necessary because in most places a server's wages are allowed to be incredibly low on an hourly basis with the understanding that the bulk of their actual earnings will be in the form of tips. If we (societally speaking, at least in terms of localities) were to establish a minimum wage (living wage) that didn't depend on tip income, then I would agree its entirely optional.

          2. Okay, let's work this out. I've been bartending and serving for close to six years and believe me, I've worked with every slow and entitled waiter you can imagine. I would hate to receive a regular wage, it would remove any incentive for good service. I guess I'm old fashioned.

            13 Replies
            1. re: Unplugged

              Unplugged, I had the same thought. I would also think that if you're a good server and have landed a spot in a nicer establishment, you can bring home more money in tips than you would at a flat wage rate.

              1. re: Unplugged

                The way things work now, waiters sometimes end up going by apparent wealth (i.e. race, what you order) to determine how good of service they provide--which I think is a shoddy basis for judging a person.

                I wonder if a no tipping policy wouldn't put the burden of being nice on the customer. Waiters might give better service to nicer tables and encourage civility, rather than to diners who appear to be rich.

                1. re: cimui

                  >>The way things work now, waiters sometimes end up going by apparent wealth (i.e. race, what you order) to determine how good of service they provide--which I think is a shoddy basis for judging a person.

                  I think I'd leave it to the server.

                  Me: server, do you make a very good living by working for this restaurant which doesn't want patrons to pay tips?
                  Server: No.
                  Me: okey doke, then, I'll tip you 20%+.

                2. re: Unplugged

                  What about getting vacation time? or what about fear of getting fired? or what about job satisfaction tied to performing your duties well.

                  1. re: Unplugged

                    Oh, I have been saying this for years. If people actually tipped appropriately, based on the service they received, we could far more effectively weed out the bad servers. I've been serving and bartending since 1994 and I am astounded by how much people tip clearly bad servers. They're still getting 20% pretty much across the board. If people were tipping them 10-15%, it might let them know that they need to step up to the plate or get out of the business.

                    Also, Suzy Q, you don't really need to work at a nicer establishment. You just need to find someplace midrange and busy. Longevity works well too. The longer you have worked someplace, the more of a relationship you are able to build up with customers.

                      1. re: hilltowner

                        I really like the server at a local diner and always try to tip her at least 20% (that's a big deal for me!). She acknowledges me, remembers my order, and is very efficient. I think she's also a student (goes back to read her textbook when not busy). Today, I found out my husband went to Taco Bell, was very impressed by this elderly man who worked there, and tipped him $10! That's at least a 100% tip (he went with my daughter). :-)

                      2. re: Unplugged

                        On the surface, that makes sense. But practically speaking it doesn't work. 99.9% of the time, if a bad tip is left due to poor service, the server assumes the customer is just being cheap, gets irritated and continues to be a dope.

                        1. re: jgg13

                          Yeah, but if they consistently get bad tips, they might rethink their position. If the money's not good, something will change. They will either learn how to be better or find a more lucrative business. Also, just to drive the point home, you could leave a brief, polite note, explaining your dissatisfaction. Unfortunately, this concept will probably never work unless a large portion of the dining public adhered to it.

                          1. re: hilltowner

                            I doubt that even poor servers would get consistently bad tips though. It seems like most people these days seem to believe that one is supposed to leave 15-20% as a starting point and only deduct it for extremely gross errors. Once you're in that situation, the server will just notice fluctuation within the 'norm' and not really think about it.

                            at the end of the day, a note, a chitchat w/ the manager, etc would be the best bet - but honestly, i'd just vote with my feet and not go back. Leave it up to the management , if they start to lose customers they might realize that poor service is the root.

                            1. re: jgg13

                              Right. That was my point made earlier

                          2. re: jgg13

                            When I get the 'service from hell', I leave a 2 cent tip and a note--there should be no question that it was poor service and not just an oversight or cheapskate...

                            1. re: NVJims

                              Unless you speak to management then there is nothing to keep the server from believing you are just cheap.

                        2. The only restaurants I've seen that don't require tipping are very high-end. That's because the service staff is salaried. Almost by definition, these are top flight servers, there are no slackers allowed. Ownership is enlightened and the Kitchen is top notch. Their staff is made up exclusively of "A" players, the "C" players never get an interview, (they go work in a Chain restaurant), and the "B" players are gone in 2 weeks.

                          The restaurant industry is like a pyramid. The very good ones are at the top, and there's VERY few of them.

                          20 Replies
                          1. re: tudor3522

                            I agree somewhat. One of my husband's old very upscale restaurants he had career waiters that made six figures easily and a couple had been with him for 20 years.

                            If you don't have to tip in the restaurant, you don't attract good service. No restauranteur in their right mind is going to pay a server a salary without horrifically jacking up menu prices.

                            The net margins on restaurant profits are very small as it is. That is why the restaurant industry has such a high mortality rate.

                            1. re: BlueHerons

                              then how does it work so well in Europe?

                              1. re: babaoriley7

                                Wages aren't tied to the discretion of the diners; the wage minimums are legislated at a level that people can have the jobs and survive.

                              2. re: BlueHerons

                                "If you don't have to tip in the restaurant, you don't attract good service. No restauranteur in their right mind is going to pay a server a salary without horrifically jacking up menu prices."

                                Then I suppose Alice Waters and Thomas Keller must have lost their marbles. They pay their entire staff a living wage (and provide benefits), and their prices are comparable to restaurants of a similar caliber. It is my understanding that they do so by adding a service charge that goes to the restaurant, not directly to the servers, and commensurately increasing the amount the staff is paid.

                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  Yes, but your average restauranteur can't afford to charge the prices that Thomas Keller and Alice Waters do. Those places are clearly special occasion places; people just can't afford to eat there every day. Most places where people dine on a regular basis are not of their caliber.

                                  1. re: kimmer1850

                                    The thing is though, it'd only be stupid people who would be shocked at the "higher prices" because in reality the prices would likely be the same as what folks pay now (when one includes the tip, etc)

                                    1. re: jgg13

                                      Who are these 'stupid' people?

                                      1. re: dolores

                                        The same people that get fooled when prices are $x.99 instead of $x+1.

                                        1. re: jgg13

                                          I still think you underestimate restaurant patrons. I am one who 'starts' at 20% and works downwards for poor service, with no tip for abominable service. I am fortunate in that I don't see much abominable service.

                                          While I wouldn't mind a 20% upcharge or auto-grat built into my food prices, I sinCEREly doubt that the server and those tipped out by the server would GET that built in tip.

                                          I am not sure patrons are 'stupid'. Suspicious, perhaps, cynical no doubt. I don't think I'd like to see either method of dispensing with tips implemented in my area.

                                          But no matter. As I said, I'd ask the server IF they were getting the auto-grat or a built-in tip from the higher prices. If they say no, I'd still tip them as much as my budget would allow.

                                          1. re: dolores

                                            The point is that many people aren't good at factoring in "hidden costs", even when they're well known. If there are two menus, one with prices 15-20% lower than the other but an expectation that you're going to leave an extra 15-20% - many folks would automatically gravitate to that one subconsciously believing it to be "cheaper". Even when you *know* that's what is going on, its hard to fight that effect. My point is that unless *every* restaurant went to that model, it'd be financial suicide for most of the places (outside of some niches, as others in this thread have pointed out) who do that because their prices are going to "seem" higher.

                                            And I'm not talking about an autograt. I'm talking about actually having higher prices such that the server are being paid a normal wage. That would make it so that a server could apply for the job, know up front that they were going to make $X over Y amount of time. If they thought that pay rate was not worth the particular job/restaurant they could choose to work somewhere else. This is how it works in most industries (obviously excepting commission based - which while it has similar advantages/disadvantages to a tip model IMO, isn't quite as annoying to me as a customer).

                                    2. re: kimmer1850

                                      While you're right about Keller's restaurants, I disagree about Chez Panisse. It's not exactly budget fare, but neither is it strictly a special-occasion restaurant. In fact, the prices in the cafe are very reasonable compared to most sit-down restaurants--I've never seen an entree over $30, and the vast majority are under $25. Given the quality of the food, it's no suprise that the place has many regulars. Downstairs is a little more of a splurge--during the week, a four-course prix-fixe dinner is $65. But that's still not anywhere near the top of the price range for the area.

                                      To be fair, a vacancy at one of Chez Panisse's tables is a rare and short-lived occurrence. So the volume of buiness and the consistency of that volume probably ensure a level of stability in gross sales that most restaurants don't enjoy, which in turn makes it easier to guarantee a certain level of income to the staff. Nevertheless, it's an interesting business model, and as a former server (okay, it was near the dawn of time, but I still identify), I support it.

                                      1. re: kimmer1850

                                        Chez Panisse really isn't _that_ expensive. Including the 17% service charge and 8.75% sales tax, you can eat in the Cafe for right about $50 per person not including alcohol (but including the filtered tap water, sparkling or not) -- I'll not that in calculating that I went with an average sort of price for their menu...about $10 for a starter, $20 for an entree and $10 for a dessert. Its possible to increase that total to as high as $63 if you choose the most expensive item in each section...a bit more if you go for sides of olives and select a cheese course. To eat in the main restaurant with the pre fixe during the week is about $82 (again, before alcohol).

                                        So, it's definitely more than many but it's not out of site comparatively speaking to lots of restaurants that don't include a service charge.

                                      2. re: alanbarnes

                                        And how much of the population have actually eaten at Alice Waters or Thomas Keller's restaurants?

                                        It just doesn't work for the average restaurant or it would already be industry standard.

                                        1. re: BlueHerons

                                          It does work in other parts of the world. I understand there are regulations in Europe but the businesses survive and it works there.

                                          1. re: babaoriley7

                                            The difference is that *all* places do that over there as it is the law. It'd likely be suicide here if places just started "deciding" to do it on their own - as at the end of the day, the only real effect is that the prices on the menu would go up and the customers would think its too expensive (w/o realizing what's going on)

                                            1. re: jgg13

                                              Just by clarification, it is by no means the case "over here" that "all" places follow the same practice. Different practices exist in different countries and the law is rarely involved. For example, in France, a service charge (auto-grat?) will be added. In Spain, there is rarely a service charge but a tip of around 5% - 10% might be left in high-end places (elsewhere leaving few coins is fine).

                                              In the UK, we have a mixed situation. Most middle range (and upwards) places have a service charge (around 10 - 12.5%). Elsewhere leaving a 10% tip is usual. It is clear from the menu and the bill (when it's presented) what the situation is.

                                              We are not a stupid nation and are able to tell one from the other in the full knowledge of what's going on. Americans are not stupid either.

                                              So long as a restaurant makes it's policy clear there is no problem either for it or its customers.

                                              Even with the national differences, you will never see tipping even being discussed on a European foodie board - it is simply a non-issue. Perhaps evidence in itself that it works fine.


                                              1. re: Harters

                                                Why is it that the British are known as atrociously bad tippers when they visit the States then?

                                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                  Not sure how you make the leap from what I said to what you conclude but whatever. You'll have to hope there's a poor-tipping Brit reading the thread who is prepared to answer your entirely non-provocative post.

                                                  For myself, I try and understand a country's customs before I visit (hence my comments about France & Spain above). Not everyone does. And if they don't, they might assume customs are the same as in their own country - particularly as the tip rate is roughly the same across Europe (which is where most of us regularly holiday ).

                                                  It's like when Americans visit the UK - they don''t know our customs so will tip the 15-20% on top of the 12.5% service charge. Our servers just love you - please keep visiting :-)

                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                    "We are not a stupid nation and are able to tell one from the other in the full knowledge of what's going on."

                                                    Sorry if I misconstrued. I just interpreted this to mean that if Brits know how the system works in Europe, why don't the majority seem to know how it works in America?

                                                    Thank you for being one of the "good guys". It's always nice to hear my staff talk about receiving nice tips when they weren't anticipated.

                                                    I'm pretty sure most Americans DO know the British customs; they simply feel "weird" not leaving a tip.

                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                      No worries. I meant that it's very easy for folk to get used to the service charge idea and you easily spot which places have it and which you need to tip traditionally in. It isnt misleading and, as such, there's no reason why it can't work in the US. In fact, three places I visited in NYC in September did have a service charge and it was easy to spot even though we hadnt expected to see it - a bit sneaky that they hadnt advertised their intent on the menu, though.

                                                      I'd also be more than happy to confirm that many of my compatriots may also just be cheapskates. Holidays to the US are not cheap for us (even allowing for the exchange rate) - which is why I can only afford to visit about every 4 - 5 years.

                                                      And hey, fellow Brits - learn the customs; be ambassadors for our nation; do the right thing.