Back in January we asked in a blog post what would happen if we abandoned the tipping system that's become the mainstream method for providing front-end restaurant staff with compensation. The post was spurred by a TEDx talk given by Bruce McAdams, a Canadian restaurateur-turned-professor who advocates the end of the tipping system.
Comments came in from all sides of the argument, from business owners, waitstaff, bartenders and the customers that they served. Industry folks who felt like they were tipped well for their work wanted things to stay just the way they are. Others thought a fair living wage didn't sound like a bad idea. And to think: A waiter could never be stiffed on a table of 17 again.
Customers turned the conversation into a debate on how to calculate a tip, and whether or not to calculate a tip on tax and booze. The cheapos were shamed.
The New York Times recently published a story on another restaurant to ditch the tip system. Sushi Yasuda, an upscale Japanese restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, joined Per Se (also in New York), The French Laundry in California and others in removing tips from the equation.
The story quotes owner Scott Rosenberg, who said tips were not going to the workers, anyway, and that the staff received salaries and benefits and the restaurant took the tips. The practice reminds me a little of the Iron Cactus scandal that resulted in a sizable lawsuit last year.
While other restaurants that have tried alternatives usually opt for levying a service charge, Sushi Yasuda hides the cost of service in the price of the menu items. A picture of a receipt published on Gawker shows a $243 charge for sushi and a $9 bowl of edamame. After a line for sales tax (the entire amount is taxable including the embedded service charge), all that remains is the total and an explanation that tipping is not expected.
Following the custom in Japan, Sushi Yasuda's service staff are fully compensated by their salary. Therefore gratuities are not accepted. Thank you.
Back in the Times, another issue with the early adoption of new systems is pointed out. While the owner claims that cash left at tables is promptly refused, a number of customers reported leaving a sizable tip on their table, on top of the tip they'd already paid. New Yorkers are tipping on top of the tax they're paying on a tip-included $243 dollar sushi dinner. I think I'm in the wrong business.