There's an Anti-Tipping Revolution Brewing in Restaurants
J Thoendell stashed this in Food
“I was on the radio the other day, talking about tipping and whether or not it will go away and be replaced by a service fee,” Freeman told me. “It was a station in Toronto and they had a live chat and people were calling and going a little ballistic about it—which is funny but also like ‘wow, we touched on a subject here.’”
Interestingly enough, Freeman doesn’t think that restaurants are going to all wake up, pay their employees decently and adjust their prices to honestly reflect that. And just because it’s 2014, you’re not magically excused from paying gratuity on your meal tonight, and at many places, you’re going to still be responsible to pay someone’s wage into 2015 and beyond.
“It’s not going to be right for everybody,” Freeman said.
But Freeman thinks that upscale restaurants might take a “nod towards Europe,” and replace the “tip” with an included service fee. Anything you leave on top of the service fee then becomes that retrograde-maybe-never-real “discretionary addition for really good service.” The goal isn’t to make things fairer for the wait staff, but rather to spread the (now compulsory) love to the back of the house as well.
“Our thinking was with all these new restaurants opening, there’s obviously a shortage of back-of-house people—cooks and sous chefs and things like that,” Freeman said, “so our thought was that [the practice of tipping] is going to really change because in the service fee model, when there’s a service charge added in, that gets split between the front and back of the house.”
So it doesn’t really address concerns that prices in restaurants don’t accurately reflect the cost of the meal, but by removing the optional part of tipping, waiters, busers, and chefs will all at least know what they can expect to earn for working a shift. It also ties into the on-going interest in the chef. “We were seeing this as a solution to keeping really good cooks in place and to build on their contribution to the whole experience,” Freeman said.
But how this will look and when you can reasonably expect it to disseminate from the farm-to-repurposed-wood-table gastropub all the way out to Chili’s is anyone’s guess.
“There’s obviously implications for wanting to tip to reward good service, and there’s also tax questions and all of that,” Freeman explained. “We’re definitely thinking it might take on different models—maybe they’ll just start splitting gratuity between front and back of house without switching to a service fee.”
I wonder how waitstaff would feel about going the service fee route? It will make up for the low or non tippers, but might stop some, who would have left more, and if you have to share it with back house staff (some already do). Maybe it will just be a wash.