No Tips Please.


Photo by Robert S. Donovan/Flickr.

It's taken me a chunk of time to work my way through this multi-part story about a restaurant in San Diego that did away with the practice of tipping, but I finally did, and I wanted to share it with you. The six-part series, written by restauranteur Jay Porter, is informative, written from an insiders perspective and, it seemed, fairly nonjudgemental, even while he was speaking from an opinion based perspective.

His is the story of taking a restaurant from traditional (accepting tips) to the 1% (not accepting tips and adding a set amount to every check regardless of circumstances). The beauty of Porter's story is that he had two restaurants, one that accepted tips and one that did not. Note: both restaurants are now closed.

It's an incredibly interesting story that winds you through the decisions that went in to altering a very set-in-stone business model. Traditionally the staff in a restaurant will see higher wages for servers (because they handle the tips), lower pay for the cooks, and an even lower pay for the support staff of these two groups. When Porter changed his business model he saw three things go up: the attitude of staff, the quality of the food and the income of the business.

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The busy kitchen at Sushi Yasuda.

A few months ago, a well-known restaurant in Midtown, Sushi Yasuda, also did away with tipping. To balance out this move they increased the pay of servers and the costs of menu items. I dined at Sushi Yasuda before they made this change, but when I dined there I recalled thinking that so many people had been involved in my one meal that it was no longer a judgement call, when you're deciding how much to add on to a bill, about one person's job well done.

On reading the story you may recognize some habits you didn't even know you had, for me it was this one: "In other words, each individual person has an amount they pretty much always tip, and that amount varies a lot from person to person." He's right. At least where I'm concerned, I always tip the same, regardless of shining service, amazing food or spotty pacing of a meal.

The series on Porter's blog is long and winding. If you'd like a quick version, see his article on Slate. Also, published a few days after I posted here, Pete Wells from the Times, weighed in with his own thoughts on the tip conundrum. Read his piece: Leaving a Tip: A Custom in Need of Changing?