Union Square Hospitality Group Gets Rid Of Tipping

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By: Kari Sonde

On October 14, Union Square Hospitality Group, a group of restaurants run by restauranteur Danny Meyer, announced that it will slowly move to eliminate tipping. Starting at The Modern, the Michelin-starred American restaurant at the MoMA, USHG will eliminate tipping at all its full service restaurants.

Danny Meyer isn’t the first to implement this policy. Sushi Yasuda, the upscale sushi joint in Midtown, eliminated tipping in 2013, citing on its receipts that it follows the “custom in Japan” where the “service staff are fully compensated by their salary.”

While many high end restaurants add a mandatory 18–20% gratuity fee to the bill, Sushi Yasuda, a vegetarian Greenwich Village joint called Dirt Candy, and USHG might be some of the only ones in New York City to eliminate tipping altogether.

The idea behind eliminating tipping is to raise the prices of the food to cover service charges and provide both a set salary and benefits to the waitstaff. Currently, tipped food service workers in New York City receive a minimum salary of $5.00, which is actually a lot considering that the federal minimum tipping wage is $2.13 an hour. This base salary is just enough to cover taxes, meaning that when you skip the tip, your server pays for your food.

Oddly enough, it’s not just the waiters who might not be making enough money: it’s the chefs. A piece by Eater revealed that servers at full service restaurants in NYC can make $40,000-$100,000 a year when they get an average of a 20% tip. A cook, however, only earns $35,000.

To even out the disparity and provide better benefits for everyone, USHG will be considering a 35% increase on menu items. This would take a $30 menu item and make it cost $40.50.

USHG is trying to ensure that nobody in the back of the restaurant earns less than $11/hr. That’s just about what your average college kid makes at an internship, if they manage to score a paid one. Meanwhile, the front of the house staff will end up earning $9/hr. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but USHG will also implement a revenue sharing program to make up the difference of what a server can usually make.

If adopted widely, this policy would definitely be an adjustment for American diners as well. They’re not really used to having to pay a lot for food; in fact, American food is pretty darn inexpensive.

But in the end, it’s still not really going to be that expensive to eat out. You’ll actually pay your server what they deserve for dealing with you. (Quick shout out to the woman who camped out at a table for two hours past closing time and then only tipped me 15% on her measly $40 bill). Your server will be getting benefits, won’t have to fight for the better paying shifts, and your cooks will be happier that they’re getting paid more, so your food will taste better. Probably.

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