Manhattan is about to see a significant change in the way its restaurants do business. Union Square Hospitality Group, which owns many of Manhattan’s well-known eateries, is set to eliminate tipping from its restaurants. Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, announced last month that beginning in late November, all Union Square Hospitality Group-owned restaurants would be raising their menu prices to include the compensation tipped employees would normally receive at the discretion of their guests.
“Our country has a longstanding tradition where a server’s income is determined by guests’ tips rather than a weekly salary set by the restaurant,” Danny Meyer wrote in a Fall 1994 Union Square Café newsletter. “We are at a disadvantage when it comes to recognizing and promoting outstanding service.”
Meyer notes that he would be thrilled to see America adopt a European-style system where menu prices are all-inclusive and workers did not rely on tips to make their living wage. Because New York City is a city frequented by many European travelers, Meyer explains, servers are faced with a difficult situation.
“I’d see nights where waiters were crying because somebody from Europe, where they don’t have a tipping culture, would walk out without leaving a tip,” Meyer told the New York Eater last month.
Meyer is aiming to mark his menus as “Hospitality Included,” a choice that he says is a matter of personal philosophy. He believes hospitality includes more than just a service and includes the entire restaurant staff working together to please the customer, not just the wait staff and bartenders.
The first of Meyer’s restaurants to see the change will be The Modern, which will adopt the system in late November.
The implementation will be introduced to customers by including a note on the menus explaining why the prices were raised. Servers will be ready to answer any questions about the new system as well. Guest receipts will only have one supplemental charge, sales tax, and there will be no line for guests to write in a tip, just a line for the diner’s signature.
Meyer notes there is a risk of driving customers away with raised prices. However, he hopes this will spark a revolution in the way New York restaurants compensate their employees, allowing servers to receive a steady wage while taking the pressure off customers.