Danny Meyer will topple tipping once and for all
If anyone can successfully abolish the hospitality industry's long tradition of tipping and transform the financial future of restaurants, it's Danny Meyer. In an interview with Eater's Ryan Sutton, Meyer outlines his plan to eliminate tipping at every single one of his Union Square Hospitality concepts, over the course of one year, and raise his menu prices as part of a system that he's calling "hospitality included."
The first restaurant to implement the change will be the Modern: The cost of each dish will go up 30 to 35 percent (to account for what Meyer calls a "labor of wrong"), there will be a note on the menu about the new policy, and, unlike Per Se, there will be no space for guests to write in additional tips. And since adding a "service charge" has tripped up restaurateurs — Keller got slapped with a $500,000 fine — "hospitality included" will benefit every single staffer employed by his company. It will allow Meyer to properly pay low-earning cooks, who won't benefit much at all by New York's increase of the minimum wage.
The new starting salaries for Meyer's employees are as follows: At least $11 per hour for back-of-the-house staffers, $14 per hour for cooks, $9 per hour for dining-room staff — and, writes Sutton, "all staffers who are currently tipped will see their base income fortified by a revenue share program." Eventually, salaried employees will receive more money, too, and overall, payment will better reflect merit and seniority.
Meyer realizes that, psychologically, diners might feel stripped of their sense of autonomy. He muses that, down the road, there will be some kind of online-feedback system that will allow customers to praise, or bemoan, an experience more effectively. (Nick Kokonas should take note.)
"Fundamentally, the cost of going out to a fine-dining restaurant is false," Meyer says. "I feel that the prices on menus, for a restaurant that's really trying to offer good value, don't accurately express the true picture of what it costs for the people to make that happen."