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Opinion & Editorial

For Some Restaurant Servers a New Tipping Point

Esteemed New York restaurateur, Danny Meyer, recently announced a no-tipping policy in his full-service restaurants, instead opting to raise prices by as much as 20%-25%. Meyer, 57, owns famous eateries such as Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, and the popular burger chain Shake Shack, which is not to be affected by the new policy.

When asked why he made this move, Meyer said, “The gap between what the kitchen and dining room workers make has grown by leaps and bounds.” Whereas waiters currently derive most of their earnings from tips, cooks and dishwashers are limited to their salaries, causing great income disparity between the two groups of workers.

The struggle to fill kitchen staff vacancies was even highlighted in a recent New York Times article, discussing how a lack of qualified candidates is affecting food quality, too. Meyer’s new approach is expected to help reduce this pay gap and make his restaurants a more pleasurable workplace for kitchen employees.

Meyer, who serves as CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, is a trendsetter in his industry. He was one of the first restaurateurs to ban smoking in his restaurants, and smoke-free restaurants are now the norm. Perhaps Meyer’s no-tipping policy will also be adopted by other eateries.

Two sides exist to this argument, however.  For those who often debate and calculate how much to tip, Meyer’s move is a relief. But, on the other hand, should a talented and hard working server earn the same money as his/her less passionate co-worker? Most restaurants pay servers less than kitchen staff with the expectation that much more money will be earned from tips, yet, this policy simply makes it easier for diners.

Rather than deciding whether your server deserves 15% or 20% tip or wondering how much to tip on a takeout order, Meyer removes all the hassle. It will be interesting to see how the quality of service changes in his restaurants as a result of this policy. While the debate remains to be settled, Meyer’s decision is a step in the right direction.

by Oliver Kornberg ’16


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