Why Tipping Waiters Could Soon Be Passé

Anna Williams

tip waiterPer Se in New York City … French Laundry in California … Alinea in Chicago.

What do these renowned restaurants have in common?

Michelin stars and eyebrow-raising menu prices, yes. But the three are now similar for another surprising reason: They are part of the growing number of establishments with strict no-tipping policies in place.

While this might seem like a radical move—have you ever come across a tip-free restaurant?—recent surveys show it might hint at something larger. In fact, some industry experts are now suggesting that gratuity might even someday be a thing of the past, MarketWatch reports.

For one, we’re generally becoming less inclined as diners to fork over an extra 20% for our meal. A new survey by vouchercloud.net found that a full 75% of Americans admit to routinely tipping less than the standard 20%, and almost half—46%—are leaving less gratuity overall than they did five years ago.

It’s not just diners who are getting fed up with the custom. As MarketWatch notes, gratuity can be a messy area for many restaurant managers and is filled with potential legal troubles when it comes to determining how the money should be divvied up among staff members. Some restaurant owners note that they’d prefer customers to devote their full attention to the meal experience—not to “grading” their server and scribbling math equations on the back of receipts.

Still, restaurants with tip-free policies are by no means problem-free. Defenders of the custom argue that there would be little incentive for staff members to offer stellar service without the potential of earning a hefty tip at the end.

And don’t get too excited: Dining at a tip-free restaurant likely doesn’t mean that your night out will be any less expensive. Establishments that have banned tipping have simply raised their menu prices to make up for it.

Whether the no-tipping trend lasts or not, make sure you’re always spending your restaurant budget smartly with these tips for saving on dining out.

  • life-is-peachy

    Waiters at most restaurants make 2.13 per hour…. which pays our taxes if we are lucky. So that “extra” 20% you don’t want to fork over is how we pay our bills. If you can’t afford the convenience and luxury of having other people prepare and bring your meal to you, then you should do those things for yourself at home.

    • Tina

      There is a movement to make the minimum wage (at about $10) applicable to waiters in CA. Meaning they would make a regular salary. At that rate, it does not mean they are still “surviving on tips”, and therefore I would feel disinclined to tip them. The dynamic of tipping is due to the traditional low per hour wage mitigated by the tips they receive from customers. However, big restaurants will now be required to offer health insurance at less than 10% of the workers income in addition to minimum wage. They will have benefits, and a salary. They also have the option to walk away from their job if they deem the salary unacceptable, as we are an at-will state.

    • matt

      Why should we fund your poor career choice?

      • Joe

        You’re not “funding” anything. You’re paying for a service. If you’re too cheap or too broke, then don’t use the service. Take out or cook for yourself.

        Additionally, perhaps you shouldn’t make value judgements on someone’s career choice, whatever it is.

      • amanda

        not to mention….many servers are working that field while attending college and/or between careers…perhaps they are destined for a better career than yourself and this is just one way to get them there? i definitely paid my way through two bachelors as a server and am still serving until i’m prepared to become board certified as a medical interpreter making about 30,000 a year, minimum, to start ;)

  • Alyssa

    I’m all for this. I’ve traveled extensively, and the rest of the world has paid their servers a living wage and had higher menu prices for years. Just another way the US needs to stop lagging behind and get on board with the rest of the world.

  • PhilChance

    “…have you ever come across a tip-free restaurant?” Yes all the time outside the US where btw we still get good service without it. The US needs to fix their wage laws. Also many resorts, hotels outside the US also do not allow (will punish employees) for tips to waitstaff, bell hops, valets, housekeeping…… Sometimes the habit is that you are offered (as an option) at the end of the visit to contribute to an employee fund (holiday party or bonus) that is split among all the employees not just the ones that you saw. Sometimes it is an affront to the business as who wouldn’t train/pay their employee to do a good job as they charge you a good rate. I see this as a much more customer service oriented way of doing things. US citizens take their tipping habit with them but don’t put much thought into the local practice. I now live in HK, we don’t tip or offer $$ to a concierge, it is bribery. Other countries consider it an isult also. This is the #1 sign you are a tourist. If the changes go through and you are a stellar, dining educated waiter at a US restaurant you’ll be able to demand the salary.