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A No Tipping Future?

A Food Channel Opinion

When you decide to venture outside of your home for a meal out on the town, at the end of that meal you know you are expected to leave a tip. A few things play into this expected outcome: was the server up to standards, did you receive adequate attention to all your dining needs, and was the food of good quality?

Regardless, tipping is an American tradition, and patrons and servers alike have regarded it as an adequate form of compensation. However, there is a shift in this way of thinking—New York restaurateur Danny Meyer, with Union Square Hospitality Group, is making headlines by being one of the first to drop tipping from some of his restaurants. He is not, however, the only one.

Smaller restaurants around the country have been early adopters to the idea. At Lunch Café & Eatery in Alaska, considered to be the first restaurant in that state to make the shift, any tips still left behind were donated to a local soup kitchen. The owner says the staff supported the shift entirely. Salmon House, and Bar Marco have also dropped tipping entirely, and most impactful implementation as of yet has been from Joe’s Crab Shack. Joes is the first major chain to implement a no-tipping policy in its restaurants. Some companies, such as Bar Marco, have said it has had a positive outcome, with stable salaries given to all employees. They believe it levels the playing field among front and back of house staff. Couple this with a rise in customer attendance and the result is increased weekly profits.

The real question then is: do success stories outweigh the negatives of what a no-tip foundation can create?

According to the behavioral evidence we’re finding, the attitude of most customers is, “No.” Many customers who frequently eat out worry that without the incentive of a tip, servers will have no reason to provide an exceptional experience for their patrons. Many who work as servers have an entrepreneurial state of mind, where being creative, interactive, and quick can make you more money than most in-office jobs.

On the plus side, many believe that dropping the tipping policy can make work a healthier environment for most servers. Tipping isn’t always based on the qualifiers we assume. A lot of tipping can be biased due to a server’s appearance, and some say tipping increases sexist behavior. Many servers say their overall self-respect has improved due to not having their salary based on other people’s moods or personal agendas.

It is important to realize that good service is still key to most people—at least enough to cause a healthy discussion, and making this one of the trends we will continue to watch.

See our 2016 Top Ten Food Trends projections.