Popular NYC Restaurant Group Doing Away With Tipping

Here's a tip for eating at one of Danny Meyer's restaurants -- don't leave one. 

The restaurateur said Wednesday that all 13 of his New York City eateries will eliminate tipping and raise prices to create a fair wage system for employees. Restaurants in Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group include the Modern, where the change will start first in late November, as well as Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern and Blue Smoke. The other restaurants will follow suit over the next year.

Meyer, who also founded the popular restaurant chain Shake Shack, said a tipping system isn't fair to all restaurant workers, since regulations don't allow for all employees to share in gratuities.

"We believe hospitality is a team sport, and that it takes an entire team to provide you with the experiences you have come to expect from us," he said in his announcement. "Unfortunately, many of our colleagues — our cooks, reservationists, and dishwashers to name a few — aren't able to share in our guests' generosity, even though their contributions are just as vital to the outcome of your experience at one of our restaurants."

The issue of wages for those in the food service and restaurant industries has been gaining attention. New York recently approved phasing in a $15 an hour minimum wage for workers at fast-food chains in the state, and several cities around the country have set the same minimum for all workers.

But it is still rare to find a restaurant that doesn't have tipping.

At the Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery in Austin, Texas, gratuities have never been accepted, and business team leader Dana Curtis was happy to hear of Meyer's move.

"I think it's great," she said. "I think it raises public awareness about economic inequality, it starts a public conversation about fair wages."

Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, said other restaurants could be inspired to follow Meyer's lead.

"I think that because it is Danny Meyer and he is considered a leader in the restaurant industry, that a lot of people are going to look at this move," she said.

Christin Fernandez of the National Restaurant Association said restaurants should have the freedom to choose what works best for their business.

"The move towards a non-tipped environment is a new and somewhat small concept with only a handful of restaurants testing it nationwide," Fernandez said. "As the industry of hospitality, we've found the practice of tipping has traditionally attracted millions of employees to our industry and still has strong support from American diners."

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