Tipping point?
October 14, 2015 8:59 AM   Subscribe

NYC restauranteur Danny Meyer is eliminating tips at his 13 restaurants. "Significantly increased" prices will make up the difference. (More from NYTimes.)
posted by ndg (112 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Many restaurants have been experimenting with this. An excellent and thoughtful writeup is Observations from a Tipless Restaurant, a series of posts about one of the early adopters, how they arrived at the strategy, how it works, and what limitations it has.
posted by Miko at 9:07 AM on October 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile, dining room staff — waiters, bussers, bartenders, and sommeliers — will start at $9 per hour, the full New York minimum wage. This seems meager in contrast to other no-tipping restaurants, like Ivar’s Salmon House in Seattle, where everyone makes $15 per hour, or Dirt Candy in New York, where servers start at $25. But USHG’s lower hourly rate has a simple explanation: all staffers who are currently tipped will see their base income fortified by a revenue share program. While Sagaria couldn’t, at press time, specify anticipated totals for front of house pay ranges, he did say that he’s aiming to have those positions take home at least as much as they did under the old system; he said that his modeling shows 79 percent of the dining room will see their pay increase under Hospitality Included. Just in case, USHG will insure service staff pay for the first twelve weeks of Hospitality Included at any of his restaurants, guaranteeing that monthly payouts will be at least equivalent to those of the same month the previous year.
79% will see a pay raise? The staff are being set up to be fucked. If you can't pay a living wage base hourly you're setting up to fuck them and you know it. It might not be tomorrow. It might be a year from now but they'll turn down the revenue share knob on the back of some excuse like "rising costs". It also makes the employees eat the risk of this experiment with "higher prices" with nothing coming back into their pocket on the back of a management fuckup of the whole scheme.

Tipping is a fucked practice but let's face it, best case scenario, they get a slight raise, worse case scenario they get completely fucked.
posted by Talez at 9:13 AM on October 14, 2015 [17 favorites]


Will fewer diners eat at USHG restaurants once the prices jump up? “It’s nearly impossible to predict human behavior,” Ashley Campbell said. “But reality tells me there will be attrition. We’re not going to know until we rip this band-aid off.”

I'm excited to see how this goes! I hope we can eliminate tipping altogether within my lifetime!
posted by Greg Nog at 9:13 AM on October 14, 2015 [19 favorites]


Frankly, while tipping is a stupid practice, and I hope it goes away, the people who really get screwed under a tipped system is not the front-of-house staff but the kitchen staff. A disproportionate share of your dining dollar goes towards waitstaff as opposed to line chefs. That's part of the reason it seems that it's hard to make tipping go away - in many cases, tipped employees would make less money under a different system and they know it.
posted by peacheater at 9:18 AM on October 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


As someone who used to be in the bracket of servers who made a very comfortable living working in high-end restaurants, I support this wholeheartedly. When you rely on customers to compensate your workers, you end up with a high-strung, stressed-out, and competitive wait staff. I had coworkers who raked it in on the basis of looks or charm, but were never around to help you when there was a rush. There's no reward for competence- I'd average 20-25 percent tips but I'd never make more than that no matter how much of a better server I was than the others (After you have the choice shifts and sections, then what?). Then there's the constant tension of how much I'm supposed to tip out my support staff- so not only do I depend on the grace of other people for my wages, I'm also supposed to determine what my coworkers are worth to me. Who needs that pressure?

Even if I made less money, I'd have preferred an hourly wage. Perhaps, even, a wage that went up if I was regularly a top producer. On top of that, perhaps customers would treat food service staff better if they didn't have the 'I'll leave a bad tip' card to play. No job that is so low-stakes should result in tears so often.

Restaurants are under-priced because they can only make a profit on overworking and underpaying their staff. In the end they'd save money by raising prices and eliminating tips because you'd reduce turnover and probably end up with fewer total staff because your staff is more capable.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 9:23 AM on October 14, 2015 [47 favorites]


The staff are being set up to be fucked. If you can't pay a living wage base hourly you're setting up to fuck them and you know it.

Meyer has been advocating for tipless service since at least 1994, according to TFA, so I'd cut him some slack before accusing him of deliberate deception.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:28 AM on October 14, 2015 [12 favorites]


Meyer is no idiot, andreputedly treats his staff well. This shouldbe interesting to watch. And hear hear, preacheater
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:29 AM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Meyer has been advocating for tipless service since at least 1994, according to TFA, so I'd cut him some slack before accusing him of deliberate deception.

If he was serious he'd work out two things:

1) Gross tips per worker hour in aggregate over the past year
2) Average year-on-year increase in tips

Add figure #1 to the minimum wage, increase wage by #2% each year.

Anything outside of that is fucking the staff.
posted by Talez at 9:31 AM on October 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


The staff are being set up to be fucked. If you can't pay a living wage base hourly you're setting up to fuck them and you know it.

Meyer has been advocating for tipless service since at least 1994, according to TFA, so I'd cut him some slack before accusing him of deliberate deception.


Not to sound conspiracy-minded, but when you shift from a tipped system where cash goes from patron to server to support staff into a hocus-pocus "revenue share" system that can be tweaked with at any time and is under management control, that is going to raise eyebrows.
posted by dr_dank at 9:35 AM on October 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Dining out overseas where tipping is nonexistent has been fantastic. The waitstaff leaves you alone, you don't feel like you are being cared for out of fear of a poor tip, etc. Charge me 50% more for the meal and I would be just as happy. I can't stand the dynamic that tipping sets up between diner and server. By all means price the dining experience to support the staff, like any other indulgence. If you don't want to participate then stay home, no different than live entertainment.
posted by docpops at 9:36 AM on October 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


If he was serious

Danny Meyer: Not Serious About Running A Successful Restaurant
posted by Greg Nog at 9:36 AM on October 14, 2015 [12 favorites]


Danny Meyer: Not Serious About Running A Successful Restaurant

That's not suggestions about running a successful restaurant. That's suggestions about taking care of staff and not fucking them. The two are often completely exclusive concepts in the restaurant industry.
posted by Talez at 9:41 AM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


If he was serious he'd work out two things:

1) Gross tips per worker hour in aggregate over the past year
2) Average year-on-year increase in tips

Add figure #1 to the minimum wage, increase wage by #2% each year.

Anything outside of that is fucking the staff.
I don't get the accusation of deception here. He seems very open in the article that this is a win for cooks and managers, and that he hopes wait staff come out ahead but isn't making promises there. I'm no expert in the food service industry but my sense is he's right that cooks are seriously underpaid relative to wait staff given the skills and training involved. Note also that even your "serious" proposal would likely reduce pay for a not-insignificant portion of wait staff, i.e., those who get higher-than-average tips.
posted by dsfan at 9:41 AM on October 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Note also that even your "serious" proposal would likely reduce pay for a not-insignificant portion of wait staff, i.e., those who get higher-than-average tips.

The inherent racism, sexism and other isms that come along with tipping I'm not entirely sure that's a bad thing.
posted by Talez at 9:42 AM on October 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm in the service industry (bar manager) and I think whether Meyer's specific approach turns out to be the right one or not, more innovative compensation models are needed. It's hard to keep good employees when you don't offer them the possibility raises or improved benefits (e.g. PTO) as a function of longevity. And there's a hidden cost to the business every time I have to put on hold any sort of creative work (e.g. designing new cocktails) in order to hire, interview, and train a new employee.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 9:49 AM on October 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


That's not suggestions about running a successful restaurant. That's suggestions about taking care of staff and not fucking them. The two are often completely exclusive concepts in the restaurant industry.

Possibly his long-term plan for running high-end NYC restaurants is paying the staff in monopoly money and calling them nasty names. havent read the article btw so i dont know how accurate this prediction is
posted by Greg Nog at 9:49 AM on October 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


I've said before that the American practice of tipping needs to die in a fire, and I applaud restaurants who are giving it a try, but $9.00 in Manhattan seems very, very low, especially for a "substantial increase" in prices at a place that already had moderately high prices.

Example (and maybe I've messed up the math somewhere in here, but I think it's right):

The Modern offers a four course $100 fixed-price dinner. So, for a table of two, the server would make $40 (assuming 20%) Assume that one table is occupied for two hours for each prix fixe, and a waiter is tasked with 5 tables for an 8 hour shift. Two hours of that shift are prep and breakdown, so not actually waiting on tables, leaving 6 hours of tippable time.

$40 x 5 tables: $200 x 3 rotations= $600 (- $180 - $300 that the server has to tip back out to busboys, bartenders, etc.) For the sake of argument, lets say her take home is $400 for an 8 hour shift with zero empty tables.

That would make her hourly rate $50. Which is a long ass way away from $9.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 9:50 AM on October 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


Danny Meyer is very famous for at least claiming to run his restaurants in a way that values the needs of staff and suppliers higher than investors or managers or guests, not as a way to diminish guests, but actually quite the opposite—according to his stated beliefs ensuring engaged, happy staff as a first priority trickles down to all aspects of the service model being improved, including guest experience.

He's also very famous for the success he's found with this (purported) model, and has become quite the idol for many restaurateurs in the US.

I'd say he's extremely well positioned to be the first major restaurant group to make a move like this, and it seems to be strongly inline with his previously professed ideologies, even if the implementation details are still a little murky.

There's no doubt it would be a sea change in Manhattan dining if successful, with ripples that could extend quite far from there. I'm personally beyond excited to see him try—I think he's one of the more honest people in an at times very shady industry, and I think that the institution needs to go, because of its enshrinement of socioeconomic domination as central to the service interaction, because of its favoring of servers with privileges of race/class/gender, because of it's screwing of BOH workers, and millions of other reasons/
posted by MetropolisOfMentalLife at 9:50 AM on October 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm a huge fan of this idea, and hope that it works out well in implementation.

But can someone explain to me the thinking behind the FICA credit? Why in the world would there be a tax benefit to being able to pay your employees less than minimum wage? I'm not an employer or a tax/deductions expert, but doesn't a restaurant also benefit from eliminated or reduced contributions to Social Security and the like that are based on pay?
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 9:50 AM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Possibly his long-term plan for running high-end NYC restaurants is paying the staff in monopoly money and calling them nasty names. havent read the article btw so i dont know how accurate this prediction is

Let me enlighten you then.
"We’re constantly burning through people," said Ashley Campbell, USHG’s chief financial officer. Average employee tenure at the group’s restaurants is comparable, anecdotally, to industry standards: most stay less than a year, with some leaving in as little as three months. "We’re short staffed," she said. "We’re working our people too hard. We’ve got to get ahead ahead of this. And the way to get ahead of this is to compete in a way that maybe some of our peers aren’t."
So they're already on record as working their staff as hard as they can to burnout.

Forgive me but when management doesn't do something in the most simple, open, honest, and transparent way my "they're going to fuck you" spidey sense goes up to 11 automatically. I'll believe it when I see it.
posted by Talez at 9:54 AM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd also like to add: owners faced with any sort of increased cost of doing business are all to ready to stick it to the customer (in the form of increased prices/surcharges) or employees (reduced hours/benefits) but rarely absorb cost out of their own pockets or the pockets of investors. An improved relationship between owners/investors and employees where increased costs are shared equitably would also go a long way to fixing things.

That said, it's important to note that Meyer's restaurant group is looking at a much increased tax bill as the result of eliminating tips and the corresponding tax credits. (This is mentioned in the article in the first link.)
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 9:56 AM on October 14, 2015


Agreed that the $9/hr seems insanely low. I occasionally wait tables in a retirement town in FL. There's no way in heck I'd do it for $9/hr. I'm not working at any high end places and I'd be bummed if I walked with less than $15/hour on top of the base hourly (currently $5 for tipped wage. FL is generous on that count). In a retirement town. Where older folks figure it out to 15% exactly, if they're feeling generous.
posted by imbri at 10:02 AM on October 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


So they're already on record as working their staff as hard as they can to burnout.

That's really standard industry practice, in part fueled by staff churn (as indicated in the quote by the group's CFO). It's not specific to the Meyer's restaurant group. The gamble here is whether the proposed changes will create an environment that ameliorates turnover.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 10:04 AM on October 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Not to sound conspiracy-minded, but when you shift from a tipped system where cash goes from patron to server to support staff into a hocus-pocus "revenue share" system that can be tweaked with at any time and is under management control, that is going to raise eyebrows.

In Seattle, one restaurant that shifted to a tipless system ended up not sharing the revenue promised. So it does require trusting that restaurateurs are honest. Taking tipping out of the equation may simplify the bill for the customer, maybe, but it definitely shifts power away from the customer and server, redirecting it to the owner. I wonder if the general push for a higher minimum wage will "require" these and other kinds of concessions, which ultimately make the owner-class even less accountable and, in the end, wealthier as a result.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:06 AM on October 14, 2015


I wonder if the general push for a higher minimum wage will "require" these and other kinds of concessions, which ultimately make the owner-class even less accountable and, in the end, wealthier as a result.

Certainly an operative risk. However, I think there's a newer generation of restaurant/bar workers who want to open their own places and who are likely to implement new and hopefully fairer compensation models. I know this is something that's discussed frequently within my circle of industry friends.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 10:20 AM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Taking tipping out of the equation may simplify the bill for the customer, maybe, but it definitely shifts power away from the customer and server, redirecting it to the owner.

Yeah, my immediate suspicion was that they'd end up doing what every other hourly paid industry does and just fudge the number of hours everyone is working. Lunch prep? Oh, that's not on the clock anymore, you just have to come in 2h early before your official shift starts.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:25 AM on October 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yeah, my immediate suspicion was that they'd end up doing what every other hourly paid industry does and just fudge the number of hours everyone is working. Lunch prep? Oh, that's not on the clock anymore, you just have to come in 2h early before your official shift starts.

Actually this is pretty common for BOH staff already, particularly in fine dining where there's a lot of prestige associated with putting a stint in with a highly regarded chef. Totally illegal but tolerated and completely exploited by the house to reduce labor costs.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 10:34 AM on October 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


The gamble here is whether the proposed changes will create an environment that ameliorates turnover.

Or, if it will ameliorate turnover among the line cooks, and they're not as worried about front of house staff turnover? If there's a shortage of line cooks, but there's always someone to fill waitstaff positions, I can see why Meyer would want to position his group as a more desirable place for cooks. It also lets him pay a few tested, long-term waitstaff well to train the rest of the churning front of house staff. I guess by the time fast food wages rise to $15/hr, Meyer will know if his experiment worked and will have some way to compete for both front and back of house staff.

I am curious how this effects staff who made overtime with the new overtime exemption floor mentioned ($50,400). Profit sharing instead of overtime would work on the owner's behalf too, I'd guess.
posted by gladly at 10:41 AM on October 14, 2015


Note also that even your "serious" proposal would likely reduce pay for a not-insignificant portion of wait staff, i.e., those who get higher-than-average tips.

Back when I worked in restaurants (note: a lot of years ago) the tips were split evenly among all wait staff at the end of the night. Is that not still true?
posted by shmegegge at 10:49 AM on October 14, 2015


the people who really get screwed under a tipped system is not the front-of-house staff but the kitchen staff. A disproportionate share of your dining dollar goes towards waitstaff as opposed to line chefs.

This is the thing that irritates me most about tipping (apart from the way the percentage keeps getting ratcheted upwards, from 15 to 18 to 20 and now I've seen people trying to promote 25). The people whose effort and skill make the most difference in my restaurant experience don't see the money. I'm not going to say there's *no* skill in waitering, but even the most attentive waiter in the world won't make adequate food good and bring me back, while if the food is good I won't care if the waiter is brusque and I don't see them once food is delivered.

I've done $200+ tasting menus, and sure the waiters were quiet and attentive, but it's the line chefs that are making me ooh and ah, so why does the $40+ go to the waitstaff? Plus, there's the fact that when a waiter *is* skilled, their reward has nothing to do with the effort they put in but only the price of a meal. I may have told this story before, but a year or two back I stopped in at a breakfast place. Little cafe, but had at least 20 tables, all of them packed and a line. One waitress, one busser. And it was fucking *poetry* watching her handle the entire place, never forgetting an order, always aware of who was trying to get her attention, getting food to the table as soon as it came up. I tipped her at least 30 percent, but it was still a small amount, because well, breakfast place.
posted by tavella at 10:57 AM on October 14, 2015 [12 favorites]


I think the tax implications need to be considered. A cash tip is worth more to most than a wage of the same amount.
posted by AugustWest at 11:02 AM on October 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


You know where this is obviously going to lead: 20% service fee and you'll still be expected to tip, just like room service. Initially it will just be some high end restaurants with promises that the entire service fee goes to the staff (less credit card charges, natch), then they'll start putting tip lines back on receipts to reward extra special service, and soon enough the service fee will be going to the owners and we'll be told we have to tip again.
posted by zachlipton at 11:09 AM on October 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've done $200+ tasting menus, and sure the waiters were quiet and attentive, but it's the line chefs that are making me ooh and ah, so why does the $40+ go to the waitstaff?

Two things to keep in mind:

BOH staff typically makes more than minimum wage.

Many states have a separate minimum wage for tipped employees, lower than the regular minimum. The linked to article mentions this. In NY, this "tipped minimum" can be as low as $5.00 vs. $8.75.

This can even things out considerably. Also to remember that a line chef makes the same wage in a given shift regardless of how busy the restaurant gets. Not so for the FOH staff.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 11:15 AM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure I get this. It's not the owner who tips the staff. It's the customers who tip the staff. How exactly is he going to stop me from tipping, if I really want to?
posted by newdaddy at 11:20 AM on October 14, 2015


Many states have a separate minimum wage for tipped employees, lower than the regular minimum. The linked to article mentions this. In NY, this "tipped minimum" can be as low as $5.00 vs. $8.75.

In PA, it's a whole $2.83 per hour.
posted by octothorpe at 11:23 AM on October 14, 2015


One more thing regarding the BOH/FOH wage discussion: many houses have a custom where the FOH gives up a small percentage of their tips to the BOH. It's not legally enforceable, of course, but generally everyone agrees to it.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 11:29 AM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


And in California, there is no tipped minimum wage, as it should be everywhere. We keep seeing a pattern in which front line staff have more of a financial stake in a business's performance on a day-to-day basis than anyone in management. Waiters get paid less if business is slow or someone scheduled too many employees. In retail, employees are sent home early on slow days and have their hours constantly adjusted based on sales. Meanwhile, some folks back at HQ might get a bonus for hitting certain targets, but don't see their incomes vary wildly on a regular basis.
posted by zachlipton at 11:33 AM on October 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


But can someone explain to me the thinking behind the FICA credit? Why in the world would there be a tax benefit to being able to pay your employees less than minimum wage?
The point of the credit is that if the restaurant accurately reports tips as income, they owe 7.5% on those tips to the IRS as their share of FICA. They don't actually get that money, so they have no incentive to ever report tips to the IRS (other than fear of punishment). By giving the restaurant a kickback on the FICA payments, the IRS creates an incentive for the restaurant to report the income. It doesn't apply to the amount of tips required to get the server up to minimum wage, so it doesn't actually provide a tax benefit to pay less than the minimum wage. It provides a tax benefit to encourage accurate reporting of tipped income so that the IRS can tax the waitstaff.

It is pretty well known that waitstaff in elite fine dining places make incomes that they never would be paid in a supply and demand based compensation scheme. If we magically eliminated tipping and added 20% to every check and forced owners to distribute that money in salary, there is absolutely no chance in hell it would be distributed the same way it is now.
posted by Lame_username at 11:35 AM on October 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


How exactly is he going to stop me from tipping, if I really want to?

Well, obviously he's not. You could, if you really wanted to, tip anyone and everyone you encounter during your day, from a co-worker who was more helpful than usual to a stranger who held a door open for you. Some of them might be insulted and others might be banned from accepting by work policies, etc., but if you're really desperate to tip someone, I'm guessing you could make it happen. Just the other day I accidentally tipped someone who owned the business I was patronizing, which according to our arcane tipping conventions, is never necessary (since they're setting the prices and taking all of the profits from those prices) and can be considered insulting, but he took the money just the same.

Speaking just for myself, I don't tip because I'm moved to spontaneously shower a service employee with cash. I tip because it is a societal convention and I know that if I don't, not only will I look bad, I will have done a small but very personal amount of economic harm to the restaurant's employees who rely on those tips as an important part of their salary because of minimum wage laws that assume they will be tipped at a certain rate. If I go somewhere where I know for certain that this is not the case and that the employees are paid a fair wage, the reasons why I tip no longer exist.
posted by Copronymus at 11:36 AM on October 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'm waiting for the moment when restaurant owners figure out that they can use the same tactic as Uber by advertising "Tip included" without actually paying their workers more.
posted by schmod at 11:45 AM on October 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also if there is a dinner rush your steak is $200.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:49 AM on October 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


Mr. Pink approves.
posted by fungible at 12:09 PM on October 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's New York City, aren't all steaks already $200 an ounce?
posted by Carillon at 12:09 PM on October 14, 2015


If he was serious he'd work out two things:
1) Gross tips per worker hour in aggregate over the past year

I want to go to this restaurant, where all the workers are above average.

Is it in Minnesota perhaps?
posted by Dashy at 12:10 PM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


How exactly is he going to stop me from tipping, if I really want to?

Maybe by firing any person who accepts a tip, and by having the manager collect any cash found on tables and put it in a charity fund. The kind of thing that could be audited. As a customer, you would have to get all shifty about tipping and you would risk making your favorite wait staff lose their jobs.

To make no tipping work, they would need to legally stop tipping everywhere so all restaurants and bars in the jurisdiction were on the same footing as the rest of the service industry and everyone got a regular minimum wage or higher.

But to make up for it and to share things around more fairly, owners could give all staff, front and back, a cut of the take during their shift (link the payroll database to the hourly take) on top of their regular guaranteed wage. Maybe link the wage for a prep hour to the upcoming hour's take and link the wage for a cleaning hour to the previous hour's take, or something like that, so people would share in the action associated with their prep or cleaning. I guess that would be hard to figure in the old days, but lots of little calculations are what computers do best.

Customers could tip by coming back more frequently when their favorite staff work and spending more money those nights. Maybe restaurants could work out a nudge-nudge system whereby they encouraged satisfied customers to buy something with an absurd markup (like breath mints at five dollars a pop) in lieu of leaving cash on the table, but at least the nudge-nudge money would be taxed properly and shared around with the current workers like the rest of the take.
posted by pracowity at 12:20 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Back when I worked in restaurants (note: a lot of years ago) the tips were split evenly among all wait staff at the end of the night. Is that not still true?

Not in any restaurant I ever worked in. We tipped out our bussers and bartenders, but tip pooling wasn't a thing.

I would guess this varies from restaurant to restaurant.
posted by MissySedai at 12:33 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


How much of the price of fine dining is labor?
posted by Monochrome at 12:56 PM on October 14, 2015


Labor cost is around 30% -- it varies, of course, but 30% is a fair average.
posted by ourobouros at 1:51 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


A disproportionate share of your dining dollar goes towards waitstaff as opposed to line chefs. That's part of the reason it seems that it's hard to make tipping go away - in many cases, tipped employees would make less money under a different system and they know it.

and

I'm not going to say there's *no* skill in waitering, but even the most attentive waiter in the world won't make adequate food good and bring me back, while if the food is good I won't care if the waiter is brusque and I don't see them once food is delivered.

Today, I wholeheartedly recommend the chef's special. And the caesar salad. :)
posted by floweringjudas at 1:59 PM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]




figment, those numbers were for a two-top, so 2x$100 each sitting, 20% of which is indeed 40.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:11 PM on October 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


$20 per person-> $40 for a table of two
posted by Mitheral at 2:13 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


That would make her hourly rate $50. Which is a long ass way away from $9.

These two numbers are not properly comparable, because $50 is the real net hourly rate, whereas $9 will be only the base hourly rate under the new plan. The net hourly rate under the new plan will be $9 plus some function of the actual revenue over time, which the USHG calls this second source the "revenue share program". The details of the function are not known, which is precisely why in this article the USHG tries to assuage concerns of the waiters by promising to increase financial transparency - whatever one may think that means.

My summary of Meyer's plan is that it is supposed to a) increase compensation for both cooks and waiters, b) while keeping the same intensity of labor, through c) removing gratuity, in particular, the noise range of it by merging with d) higher prices for diners.

- Staff turnover will only marginally reduce due to paying them better, as opposed to the much broader possibility of making working conditions better - this not discussed at all in the article. This omission is the weakest part of all of this.

- This experiment's outcome depends on whether the higher dining prices bottom-line translate to a more competitive service and product, i.e., better restaurants that cost more that enough diners are willing to pay more for. The "Starbucks fair-trade coffee tax" as applied here, "you the diner pay more for socially conscious food", can be somewhat double-edged in this regard.
posted by polymodus at 3:21 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Damn, y'all live in some expensive ass areas. ;)
posted by figment of my conation at 3:21 PM on October 14, 2015


He wrote about paying "a weekly salary set by the restaurant." Sorry if I missed it, but I din't find in the article if that includes all the other things that go with a regular pay check such as paid vacation, sick days, personal days, and maybe even a 401k, then this could be great.
posted by Gotanda at 3:53 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


A cash tip is worth more to most than a wage of the same amount.

It's tax evasion. That's not a good thing.
posted by jpe at 3:58 PM on October 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Waiters will make a bit less (especially after paying taxes on their income) and cooks will make much more. This seems like a reasonable tradeoff to me.
posted by miyabo at 4:19 PM on October 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's hard for me to imagine how the tip system in the US can become less fair. From my experience with waiting tables, the young and pretty got the lion's share of the tips and the reliance on tips made women accept sexual harassment as part of the job. (And at least back then, servers who were not white got a much lower tip average than servers who were white.) The busboys and kitchen staff were woefully underpaid, and never eligible for tips (although they were sometimes tipped out, it was pretty small potatoes compared to the servers). And finally a lot of the "good money" servers made frankly relied on tax evasion. I'm pretty much in favor of any steps to change the practice, even if they aren't perfect.
posted by frumiousb at 4:33 PM on October 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


In Seattle, one restaurant that shifted to a tipless system ended up not sharing the revenue promised.

Huh, really? Do you have any more information on that?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 4:58 PM on October 14, 2015


Fuck tipping. More power to Danny Meyer.

How exactly is he going to stop me from tipping, if I really want to?

He won't, and for sure there will be some people who keep on tipping because they just like the idea of it. Americans love tipping and they keep doing it even when they go abroad to countries that don't have tipping and fucking it up for everyone over there. People love the idea the bartender will give them a free drink or remember their name or the waiter will comp them some extra dessert. The rich will always be able to afford better service than everyone else by slipping some extra $20 bills in. And eventually once more people do it, it won't just be better service, it'll just be expected that everyone tips. It's a race to the bottom that benefits people who have extra disposable income to tip and the owners who can start cutting their employees wages.

I love eating out in countries that don't have tipping. The service is just as good as the US (or way better, in the case of Japan) and there's no weirdness at the end of the meal. You just pay and leave like you do for any other professional service.

Re: tipping the owners, it's hard. I do it anyway, because I don't want to be considered a BAD PERSON for not tipping. Say somebody owns a restaurant and waits the tables themselves, do you tip them or not? I always tip just to be safe, because that's how much I budget for eating out ($X + 20%) and it wouldn't be fair to stiff them because they own the place. Now if our culture were different and this was just baked into the price, that would be something entirely different. But I have no way of knowing if any given restaurant owner has baked those prices into account for this.
posted by pravit at 5:09 PM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


1) Gross tips per worker hour in aggregate over the past year
2) Average year-on-year increase in tips


I heard him on the radio tonight and he did do that. He has crunched the numbers and can share them clearly - he tracked a trajectory starting in the 80s of wage growth and average tip size. So he knows what he's talking about.

I really do recommend the article I linked in my very first comment. Just about every concern/objection that people bring up here was looked at and dealt with by the restaurant owner who did it, and the results are surprising. Everyone liked it better, servers, staff and customers (except one or two customers who fought with him because they wanted to use their tip as an expression of power - pretty common - and the writer goes into the psychological and structural reasons for that and how they're linked to sexism and other power systems in society).

I'm concerned about that $9 level, too, though. I love food service and I've worked in a number of restaurants and have always prided myself on being an excellent waiter. I chose restaurants for my 2nd job "career" because of the high hourly rate, and I usually averaged $18-22/hour or so in upscale, but not Danny Meyer high-end, places. I'm not sure I could convince myself to do it for $9 while living in Manhattan. At the same time, super high-end restaurants are different and the experience of working there is different. They are thickly staffed and when things get hairy, they definitely don't get as hairy as in a 200-cover-a-night upscale restaurant with a full a la carte menu and more bar drinks than wine and a tiny little line with two positions on it and one prep cook/pot scrubber. So it may be that the ability to be part of such a professional and creative kitchen, with access to all that means including the opportunities to learn, might be worth it. But it's not a lot of money. However, if it did include vacation, a regular schedule and health benefits, that would change the equation significantly.
posted by Miko at 5:23 PM on October 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Somewhere Mr. Pink is ....something.
posted by jonmc at 5:28 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm really glad to see this kind of incremental steps away from tipping. It is a custom that I dislike but that I participate in because to not do so leaves people unpaid and I'm not that kind of person. I would happily pay much, much higher prices in exchange for the assurance that the staff, from servers to cooks to cleaners, are earning decent wages and working under decent conditions.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:07 PM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I can't imagine how this would work in the taxi biz. Every company would have to raise rates at the same time. People would scream. I make more in tips than any other driver here, usually more than my share of the meter, because I genuinely care about my passengers and they can tell. I'd hate to stop being rewarded for skillfully avoiding the drunk going the wrong way on the exit ramp or finding people who don't know where they are or picking out groceries for a blind person or doubling the speed limit because passenger has all the signs of a heart attack.

Please don't be Mr. Pink.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:39 PM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


How exactly is he going to stop me from tipping, if I really want to?

Maybe by firing any person who accepts a tip


This is A Thing already in a lot of jobs. Among other things, I can also be fired from my unexceptional office job for accepting tips.
posted by pullayup at 7:05 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


But Mr. Yuck, the chances are that those good things you are providing are not the (only) basis for how customers tip. I also believe there is little evidence for the assumption that tips (at least in waiting tables) drive quality as people feel tipping is an obligation.

In Amsterdam, I would tip a taxi driver for exceptionally good service, but I would not feel obliged to do so. When it becomes an obligation since it is part of salary, then it seems to me to no longer be a driver for quality.
posted by frumiousb at 7:48 PM on October 14, 2015


there is little evidence for the assumption that tips (at least in waiting tables) drive quality

Yes, Meyer on the radio cited this research too, and anecdotally, I can verify it. What I made averaged out with amazing regularity no matter how great or how hectic service had been, how warm or cool my rapport with people - and it averaged for most people about the same shift by shift - a Saturday was worth X amount, a Sunday a bit less, etc. Some people tend to feel like their tipping is a comment, and some waitstaff read it that way, but because most people's tipping habit is to tip the same percentage every time regardless (excepting things like the race and age penalties), it's impossible to discern much of a comment from tip averages. And professional waitstaff do as good a job as they can with everyone, rather than trying to maximize quality of service for good tippers or work less hard for bad ones.
posted by Miko at 7:59 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


So why don't the staff get: minimum wage + 15% of gross revenue? Set your price to whatever you want.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:00 PM on October 14, 2015


15% of gross revenue

That's probably much higher than the restaurant's entire profit margin.
posted by Miko at 8:02 PM on October 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


...I think part of it too (especially at the high end) is that you actually don't want to incentivize higher volume, you want to optimize the throughput in light of the overall experience you're trying to create, and being overambitious could ruin the experience and drive down the perceived value. These after all are places where you can't get a reservation without planning weeks or months in advance, and they like it that way, and don't want to exceed maximum capacity, so tying wages to volume could be a mistake, or maybe just needless since it would be fairly stable anyway.
posted by Miko at 8:05 PM on October 14, 2015


The inherent racism, sexism and other isms that come along with tipping I'm not entirely sure that's a bad thing.
posted by Talez at 11:42 AM on October 14


I have about ten years' experience waiting tables in all kinds of businesses. All the racism, sexism and other isms I've experienced has come from the other employees. Generally not the servers, but owners, managers, kitchen staff, food runners, etc.

And I, and every server I know, flat will not work in a no tipping restaurant. There's no way I'm gonna run my ass off, and put up with all that abuse, and take a massive pay cut. Because trust me, in any of these stories I've never seen a single one that suggests paying a server what a good server can make in tips. Personally, I'll go back to web design or being an executive assistant, although I hate working in offices.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:17 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


People aren't just making it up; it's one of those things where evidence is abundant enough to trump anecdote.

"Our results indicate that both white and black restaurant customers discriminate against black servers by tipping them less than their white co-workers. "

"black-white tipping difference has been linked to the delivery of relatively inferior service to black customers. In fact, in the previously cited national survey of restaurant servers, over half of the respondents admitted that they don’t always give their best effort when waiting on black customers."

I, and every server I know, flat will not work in a no tipping restaurant

I agree that it seems like anathema on its face. When I first encountered the idea I had a "hell, no!" attitude about it too. My mind on it started to change when I read the article in the first link I left in the thread, in full. I could see the benefits and the way it worked. And at a high-end place, you don't "run your ass off" the way you do in lower-ticket places, and you don't get the abuse (customer or kitchen), so it's not like you're doing the same work for less - it's almost different work, it's more about finesse and precision.

And I had to admit it's true that it only seems like you can do a lot to influence your tips - when I was shift managing, it was clear that people pretty much walked with the same whether they great waiters, customer favorites, easy to work with, supported the team, or were self-involved lazy jerks who were brusque and sloppy and never did their share of sidework and were in it only for themselves - sad to say. A shift was worth about the same to everyone anyway, barring the occasional big-party occasion windfall and the like which is an outlier. So there's something to the idea of reworking the economics, though I think it's the middle-of-the-road places that it will come to last.
posted by Miko at 8:24 PM on October 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


And I, and every server I know, flat will not work in a no tipping restaurant. There's no way I'm gonna run my ass off, and put up with all that abuse, and take a massive pay cut.

Really interesting how the difference in culture goes - I know there's no way to compare the experience in two different countries, but in Australia there's no tipping and casual wait staff get a minimum starting pay of about $20 per hour, with penalty rates on Sundays and Public Holidays which add up to a fair bit - my casual rate of $22 got bumped to $33 on weekends, so I'd put in 10 hours on weekends since that was most profitable. It would go up to $66 per hour on public holidays, which I would volunteer for as well, being single and with no family to speak of here. The $A has varied over time between $1.10 to $0.7 USD but costs of living aren't too different dollar for dollar.

Friends from US invariably comment on how poor the restaurant service is here, and they may (rightly!) conclude that it's because of the lack of a tipping incentive, but part of it is also just the extremely low level of staffing present in many restaurants as they can't afford to put many wait staff on the floor with the high wages expected. But the level of restaurant service expected is relative anyway, and we're pretty used to how things are here.
posted by xdvesper at 10:23 PM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


That's not suggestions about running a successful restaurant. That's suggestions about taking care of staff and not fucking them. The two are often completely exclusive concepts in the restaurant industry.

Danny Meyer, since you seem not to know who he is, is widely regarded by both outside experts and actual employees as the best in the business. Sure, he's in it to make a buck. Who isn't? The key difference for him is that he appears to be in it to make a buck as long as people aren't getting fucked over. Unless you have experience or knowledge regarding him, I think your alarm calls are misplaced at best.

according to his stated beliefs ensuring engaged, happy staff as a first priority trickles down to all aspects of the service model being improved, including guest experience.

From sometimes bitter experience, he is right on the money with this. Happy staff = better experience for everybody in the building. This is true of every industry with which I am familiar.

Back when I worked in restaurants (note: a lot of years ago) the tips were split evenly among all wait staff at the end of the night. Is that not still true?

That's both rarely true and highly illegal in many places. Not to mention being a recipe for intra-server discontent.

1) Gross tips per worker hour in aggregate over the past year
2) Average year-on-year increase in tips


If Danny Meyer knows only one thing, that thing is fucking numbers. He is not ever going to make a decision that involves numbers without investigating. And, unlike most other restaurateurs (who are, as a species, gigantic assbags) his numbers tend to include how his employees live.

And I, and every server I know, flat will not work in a no tipping restaurant. There's no way I'm gonna run my ass off, and put up with all that abuse, and take a massive pay cut.

Boo fucking hoo. Waaah. Poor you. My heart bleeds, really. It's bleeding while I'm in the kitchen before you've even woken up. It's definitely bleeding while I am dealing with life-altering risky situations that involve high temperatures and sharp edges--seriously, one of my instructors when I was in school told us about a young woman he'd taught who, on her first job out of school, tripped carrying a hot pot of stock.

She doesn't leave the house anymore. And it's not like she was making big bucks before that happened.

I am sick to goddamn death of servers who whine all the time about how terribly difficult their life is when they work half the hours for (at least!) double the money I do, with virtually zero risk of being cut or burned. Just enough--not personal, this is for all servers. Enough. Yes, in North America, the advantage we have over you in the very long term is that we have the chance to really make a career, while you are seen as more fungible and replaceable. Over any ten-year period you care to name, however, your average server is taking home twice what your average cook does, for fewer hours, less risk, and less actual physical and mental work required. You have to hold in your head everything your five tables have ordered and that's hard? We have to hold in our heads every single table that has ordered and how that affects what we have done today, how we continue to serve the rest of the night (I made 20 portions of soup and it's 8pm and I've already served 12, better make the rest a bit shy, chef won't notice), and how early we have to be back in tomorrow doing it all over again.

It's the classic dichotomy you see in film and theatre--the face on the poster makes shitloads of money while the people who have to be up at 6am so you can work at 2pm make, relatively speaking, nothing. Sorry but your equalization is about fairness, and not about punishing you. (As two asides: 1) Obviously and this goes without saying, servers must be able to guarantee--as anyone else does--that they walk into work one day and they are going to walk out with a reasonable wage for their time; one reason I support no-tipping); 2) I very much believe that the regularization of server pay will lead to a more professional workforce, because they can count on a reasonable wage. oh and 3) I also believe that the horrific treatment of servers will diminish when people realize that they are making the same amount of money either way. What I Asshole Guest have in my wallet isn't going to make them bow and scrape and take it--and ditto for managers who will find it harder to screw people literally and figuratively, and. On multiple levels, this shift from tipping to solidly-paid job is a major sociological event that is going to have a lot of ripples, from serving being a reasonable career path to take (managers in all professions are more interested in people who will stick around--as they do for a dependable paycheque), to dining out being more expensive and thus forcing providers to do better, to the general economic benefits of more money sluicing around.

Because these changes tend to involve more money hitting people like me, the people who make the actual product you're carrying around. We're going to spend it because while many of us can live a relatively pleasant life, we're making so little money that planning for the future is an impossibility.

It's difficult for me, as someone who's trying (and mostly failing) to learn from privilege discussions on MeFi to look at a group of people who are yes! no question! disproportionately disprivileged on several axes to take an equalization of one of those axes as a personal affront that they will not stand for. There is, it sucks, only so much money to go around and an equitable distribution in the short and long terms (and I believe, again, that regularization leads to much better long-term outcomes in the long-term for servers) is better for everyone. So what with that and the simple fact that we work longer, more physically demanding, and more straight-up dangerous hours than you do, I have little sympathy for servers who complain about making slightly less.

Because make no mistake--at the end of the day, Meyer is a businessman. And he is not about to fuck over his frontline workforce, who are the only employees that can persuade however many thousands of guests a year to fork over another $100 for another bottle of wine. You are not going to make any appreciable amount less than you do now, because the restaurant owners who are doing this know that if their star servers are walking home with palpably less money than before, those star servers are going to leave. And that affects their own bottom line, which is unacceptable.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:52 PM on October 14, 2015 [24 favorites]


How exactly is he going to stop me from tipping, if I really want to?--newdaddy

Maybe by firing any person who accepts a tip, and by having the manager collect any cash found on tables and put it in a charity fund.--pracowity

It's funny because I just finished reading a column mentioning the history of tipping in the US. The custom arrived from Europe in the late 1800s, was hated and fought by many, including restaurants which would fire workers who took tips, all to no avail.

As others have mentioned, the no tipping practice found in other countries is wonderful, for customers and for servers, but it is so ingrained here it will be hard to change the culture. But I'm all for it as long as the servers are paid a living wage.
posted by eye of newt at 11:33 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


And I, and every server I know, flat will not work in a no tipping restaurant.

Someone else will. The vacancy you leave will not remain empty. People need work.

Servers should get paid for the general quality of the work they do, not for how much they are running right now to please this one particular table full of drunk assholes. Your employer should pay you a base rate (normal minimum wage or higher) plus a percentage of the take during the hours you work, and your employer should increase that percentage to give you a raise. No need for tips.
posted by pracowity at 11:54 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


feckless fecal fear mongering: I never thought about framing it as privilege, and that's very interesting.

One thing people who've never worked in one don't know about restaurants is that there is this unbelievable hostility from the back of the house toward the front of the house. Most career servers understand that back of the house has a way harder job than them and make way less money- new upstarts tend to be total jerks about it. That said, again-- it would be a way more pleasant experience being a waiter if I didn't feel like half of the employees in the building weren't seething with rage every time we interacted.

Side note, because FFFM definitely hates waiters (it's cool, I get it!) but 'remembering what people ordered' is soooooo insulting to what a good career server in a fine dining restaurant does. I would know every ingredient in every dish, every possible modification, the pronunciation and origin and explanation for every hip new ingredient, the names of the farms our produce came from (oh yes, I worked at one of *those* places), every stupid adjective for every wine on a list fifty bottles long. Waiting tables is a sales job- a good server makes as much money for the restaurant as a good chef, and although there are a category of people who don't care about the service, there is another category of person-- the return customer-- who expects you to know their name, their allergies, their preferred drinks, the name of their kids, etc. etc. etc. Multiply that times the dozens of return customers.

But this isn't a FOH vs. BOH thread-- and in fact, that tension only even exists because of the *ludicrous* way that restaurant employees are paid. Waiters deserve to make a decent wage. So do line chefs, so do dishwashers.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 5:45 AM on October 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


Addendum: After my seven years in the industry, I would rather be homeless than be a waiter again. After I left, everything from my back pain to my depression started going away. It is an absolutely abusive job for everyone involved and was honestly not worth any amount of money, especially considering how much of it ended up spent on the substances required to cope with it.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 5:49 AM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree 100% with everything fffm said about fairness; evening out the compensation is important and necessary and overdue. And BuddhaInABucket raises a good point about FOH/BOH animosity, which exists, even though I feel lucky that I worked in places where the kitchens were collaborative and team-oriented and provided the staff with the education and information we needed to represent the food well. Given the widening inequality of the past decade as things got harder for everyone but particularly for the lowest-wage workers, I would not be surprised if the divisions between front and back have taken on more animus since my last days as a waiter in 2004.

Also, I agree that the BOH works longer, harder, and at a more skilled trade than the FOH. At the same time, I also think that part of makes working FOH hard is that it's not just about remembering orders and talking about the specials and refreshing drinks - it's doing that while performing 100% emotional labor every minute you're on the floor. I use that phrase because it's something we know a lot more about at MeFi now (and it provides for interesting reflection on the fact that since the 1930s, women have come dominate the numbers in service while men continue to dominate numerically in the kitchen). Servers are not just running food and orders around, they are performing, creating the (ideally) frictionless, smooth, reassuring and comforting interface between the kitchen and the table, dealing with a range of personalities and communications styles and expectations and egos and unspoken hopes, making adaptations for people to improve their experience, being responsive and friendly (even sometimes to the point of tolerating low-level, or not so low-level, sexual harassment and patronization and other unpleasant interactions), maintaining a certain appearance, all to support the overall value of that restaurant meal and the place's reputation and consistency.

While I absolutely support no tipping and agree that the BOH should be fairly compensated at least as well as FOH, I think it's important not to lose sight of the psychological side of service work. During particularly stressful shifts, I recall bursting through the swinging doors of the kitchen and feeling tremendous relief, because even though the place was flying apart at the seams and the tables were running me dead and being assholes about it and we were out of half the stuff on the menu or whatever, the kitchen was at the very least a place I could be emotionally real for 10 seconds while I picked up plates, a place I could drop the facade, take a breath, say a curse word, make a joke, and just take a minute to stop wearing the mask. I spent a bit of time on the other side of the line in my first restaurant job, and what I loved about it was the factory-floor nature of the kitchen, the tight internal community that was about getting the work done and done well, and who gave a shit if you were rude for a second, or foul-mouthed, or weren't wearing makeup and your hair looked weird, as long as the food was coming out right and on time. The emotional freedom of that space provides an ability to vent stress that servers don't have because they are so dedicated to the emotional labor that being the face of the place demands. So, just a voice noting that the hard part of service (in a good place) isn't the order-filing and orchestration of service and memory, it's being on and fulfilling the unspoken emotional goals that diners bring to their experience. Both sides of the house are necessary, though they do different kinds of labor, and in fact I think no tipping would make their relationship a lot better, as it would become a great deal clearer that everyone is on the same team, and interdependent, not in competition. I think it would raise the overall standard of service.
posted by Miko at 6:10 AM on October 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Miko just gave me a great idea for a video project: Film the faces of waiters as they walk off the floor and into the back.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 6:13 AM on October 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


because FFFM definitely hates waiters

I don't. I hate servers who whine about waaah only making three hundred dollars in tips in one night.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:06 AM on October 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Film the faces of waiters as they walk off the floor and into the back.

That would be amazing.
posted by Miko at 8:08 AM on October 15, 2015


People who make more money, who complain about the amount of money they make, to people who have less money = the absolute worst. I agree.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 8:09 AM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't. I hate servers who whine about waaah only making three hundred dollars in tips in one night.

Well, you're consistently belittling and hostile to FOH when you talk about food service even here on MeFi, so all I can say is that I'm glad not to work at the same restaurant that you do.
posted by rue72 at 8:22 AM on October 15, 2015


Or, y'know, I vent here so I can be professional to the servers I work with. And I'm hostile because very few servers have the slightest inkling or appreciation for how hard our jobs are in the back. And because servers make more money for less time.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:31 AM on October 15, 2015


FFFM: Remember that the servers who are on MeFi are your MeFi friends, not your work enemies.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 8:36 AM on October 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


#NotAllServers
posted by Miko at 9:22 AM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Miko just gave me a great idea for a video project: Film the faces of waiters as they walk off the floor and into the back.

Elder Monster is a chef, and his favorite thing to do to the servers when they are about to have a meltdown is commiserate with them. In Elmo's voice.

"Table 21 is acting like an entitled assbasket. Fucker. Want me to kick his ass?" In Elmo's voice. He is well loved in his establishment.
posted by MissySedai at 9:40 AM on October 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


There have been a lot of recent news stories about restaurants facing a dearth of qualified applicants for kitchen positions. A Google search for "chef shortage" brings up over 20,000 results. "Waiter shortage" returns just 2,900.

That evidence would indicate that at least from a supply and demand perspective, chefs and cooks are underpaid, while waiters are not.
posted by Asparagus at 10:14 AM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Chef is a skilled trade while wait staff isn't (at least in Canada). Makes it easier to track that sort of thing as a separate thing where as waiters are often going to be lumped into groups with restaurant staff in googleable stories. And at least some establishments are going to required ticketed people.
posted by Mitheral at 11:00 AM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


The tendency is for BOH staff to judge the FOH because they work fewer hours and don't expose themselves to the hazards of the kitchen and "then make more money." On the other hand, FOH staff is tasked with delivering a critical product, hospitality, under a wide variety of conditions (rude, demanding, intoxicated guests, sneezing babies, people who expect you to have a charger that works with their phone, etc) that BOH never has to deal with except perhaps as the abstraction of an order with lots of modifications or a perfectly good plate of food sent back for an arbitrary reason. FOH has to present a pleasant and cheerful demeanor to guests regardless of personal circumstances (I worked through the bereavement of my mother's death, for example) and do so for hours on end. Not everyone is cut out for this. Would my sous chef like to do this? I suspect not.

My point is only that if you don't look that the whole of each job, it's easy to see one as "easier" or "harder" than the other. The truth is somewhere in the middle and a restaurant needs both BOH and FOH skills to be successful. And the culture inside the restaurant need to engender mutual respect between BOH and FOH staff. That's in no small part part a function of good management---and that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish that hasn't even been touched upon.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 11:24 AM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


On collecting and pooling tips: That's both rarely true and highly illegal in many places. Not to mention being a recipe for intra-server discontent.

Cite on the illegalness, highly or otherwise?

When I bartended it was at a very atypical beer bar where we did just that. Every penny that crossed the bar went into the register. At the end of the night the total had the sales total subtracted from it and it was split out based on your hours there. I suppose it meant that people working the busier end of the day didn't do as well as they could have but people at the slower end weren't penalized as much for that shift. We also were paid what was close to twice standard minimum wage of the time, which helped as well.
posted by phearlez at 1:12 PM on October 15, 2015


it is so ingrained here it will be hard to change the culture.

And yet it changed elsewhere.

The culture part is how Americans treat certain service jobs as servant jobs, and while waitstaff and other tipped workers tell themselves that it's about being rewarded for good service, it's about allowing people to play at being masters with the servants.
posted by holgate at 1:55 PM on October 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Seen from the outside, this is a lot like the firearms debate, and the healthcare debate. US citizens claim this can never change, it is a natural law. People from elsewhere and Americans with some outlook ask - Oh but how can it then be different in Australia, Canada and great Britain, not to mention Scandinavia and Japan?
Many Americans then claim Down with Socialism! Or Hurray for America!! or something similarly inarticulate.
Then everyone gets bored.

Eating out in the US is really, really cheap, compared to many other countries, and there are a lot of unintended consequences of that, the most problematic obviously being people working long hours for an incredibly low pay.

I don't have any stakes in this, it's your country, and I love it and admire it, but it's like you have these unpredictable blind spots.

That said, apart from Japan, in most places with no tips or service included I've been, tips are strongly appreciated. The difference is not really that you don't tip, but that the tip is just an extra appreciation, on top of a fair living wage. If you plan to return to a place, you would do wisely to add 5-10 % to the bill if you were happy, but you are not responsible for the wait-staffs livelihood.
posted by mumimor at 2:20 PM on October 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


Feckless, your little diatribe about how easy servers have it just shows you have never been a server, except maybe one of those corporate places that hires all high school kids and gives them 3 table sections. How about being seated 7 tables at the exact same time, one of which is a party of 17? (With no one backing you up, and all the customers bitching at you for not being able to take literally 40 drink orders at the same time? And since they're pissed off, you're gonna get tipped crap now. So you're killing yourself for free. No, not for free, for the privilege of tipping out your coworkers. And you have to keep smiling and being excessively pleasant, all while customers are telling you that you suck, that you should get a real job, that they're going to complain to management and on Yelp, of course Yelp, always Yelp.) How about 60 hours a week? How about 15 hour shifts? How about 15 hour shifts 17 days in a row with no break? How about making only $300 for a sixty hour week because it's tax season and no one is eating out? How about 15 hours for $55 because it's Super Bowl Sunday? Or the Oscars are on? Or there's a street festival somewhere. Or it's Monday night football? Or Sunday football? Or Thursday football? Or the World Series? Or it's back to school time? Or it's January and February?

Nowhere did I say anything against BOH. I didn't say you don't work hard, I didn't say you shouldn't be paid more. I merely said that servers aren't going to be willing to work for salary. Yet you went ahead and attacked me, essentially called servers spoiled, lazy and entitled. This is typical of the attitude that BOH gives servers in pretty much every restaurant. A customer asks for something to be altered, and the kitchen throws a fit, as if the server is doing it on purpose to make the kitchen's job harder. Often, they deliberately take a long time to make it, thereby pissing off the customer and hurting the server's tip. Yes, that's right, kitchen staff deliberately takes money out of servers' pockets.

I am always, always polite to kitchen staff. I say thank you for every little thing they do, I say please and sorry for anything special I have to ask for, I bring them cake and tamales and other things I've made from scratch, if I make too much milkshake or screw up a dessert, I give it to the kitchen - and in return, I've gotten groped, yelled at, flat ignored, grunted at like a pig, and had my orders deliberately screwed up. It's so universal that I have to wonder if, much like people on the autism spectrum often gravitate to tech jobs, perhaps people on the asshole spectrum gravitate to kitchen jobs.

I could go on, but there's no real point. America has decided that servers don't deserve to get paid decently, only they're cloaking it in the guise of pretending to pay them better. I belong to several Facebook groups focused on the restaurant industry, and everyone is saying they'll quit. Good luck with that, America, because once your restaurants are staffed with former fast food workers, you're gonna get fast food level service.

Oh, and you want to talk about a job being bad for your health? In January of this year, I was in the hospital for a week, nearly died, because my heart wouldn't stop beating at 160Bpm. It was functioning at less than 20%. The doctors told me that it was caused by stress and exhaustion, and that my job was a major factor.

I deliberately didn't check this thread because I knew it was going to become a shitstorm, but you outdid my wildest expectations. And no, I won't be checking the thread again, because I don't want to end up in the hospital again.

This may get deleted, I may get banned, people may come in and call me an asshole. I frankly don't give a shit, I'm goddamn sick and tired of this attitude from kitchen staff, and someone needs to talk about what really goes on.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:51 AM on October 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


servers aren't going to be willing to work for salary

But that's sort of a funny stance for you to take, because the problems you point out, particularly the problem of uneven wage weeks because of fluctuations in the level of business, can solved via salary. With a salary there are no low weeks and no high weeks - same pay week to week (outside of any bonus system that might be set up related to volume or something). Also, being triple- and quadruple-sat is a management issue, not a salary or tip issue. When you have "no one backing you up," a lot of that because it's currently a competitive system: other servers won't bother to help you unless they're just genuinely nice people and you're in a generally well-managed and collegial place, and busers and runners may not be motivated to help you if another waiter tips them out higher. That kind of intra-staff competition would go away with no tipping, so you could expect a lot more support and collaboration. You'd all be in it together.

I deliberately didn't check this thread because I knew it was going to become a shitstorm

This is actually not a shirtstorm. Well, at least not until you posted that comment. Up til then it was just about the calmest thread on tipping I've ever seen. But if you really don't see any upside, please do read that article I keep harping on that I linked to at the top of the thread. I tended to have your perspective on this issue until I read that, and it really swayed me. I think when you really think all the economics and dynamics through, no tipping comes out looking like a superior way of organizing work and ensuring higher and steadier wages for everyone.
posted by Miko at 11:20 AM on October 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


I don't have a dog in the BOH/FOH fight, but if a job is so stressful that it makes you and other servers ill, then why do you want to be paid according to a capricious and arbitrary set of criteria? Those conditions fit right into learned helplessness territory.

Good luck with that, America, because once your restaurants are staffed with former fast food workers, you're gonna get fast food level service.

Maybe that might be a good thing. As mumimor says, dining out in America is not just cheap, it's too cheap to support itself without chewing up and spitting out its workforce. Danny Meyer's move covers a fraction of a fraction of the US industry, but if the current servers at his restaurants are sufficiently invested in a set of work practices that fuck them over as often as they are rewarded, then maybe they need to quit.

As a customer, I will pay more if I know that all the staff are getting a decent wage and benefits. I will also put up with shitty service at the same price if that's how things devolve, but I'd prefer to pay more and not feel like I'm supporting a dysfunctional industry whose dysfunctions are perpetuated by stubbornness on all sides and could do with a fucking intervention.
posted by holgate at 11:34 AM on October 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


I agree with Miko that this is one of the calmest of the umpteen tipping threads we've had here. It puts on display the stories that restaurant staff tell themselves and each other about their work, and those stories focus on rewards and (more often) punishment: I get rewarded in tips for being a good server; I get punished by being assigned a bad shift; we're being punished in the kitchen by asshole servers who get orders wrong; we're being punished out front by those asshole cooks who take too long to get plates out.

All of that runs contrary to the evidence on how tipping works, which is that it averages out on a shift-by-shift basis (with a few well-known exceptions) but the individual capriciousness of each customer imposes a huge emotional surcharge for staff.

It also seems as if a common like from wait-staff on MeFi and AskMe is "the cost of your meal is 120% of the number on the bill, and if you can't pay that amount, don't dine out". Well, okay, charge me that.
posted by holgate at 12:28 PM on October 17, 2015


That's a great outline of some reasons why the tipping system sucks, Mexican Yenta. I completely fail to understand how you go from writing that to saying "don't change it!"
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:54 PM on October 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


Geez, sounds like the job needs unions not just fixed compensation.
posted by Mitheral at 2:19 PM on October 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Feckless, your little diatribe about how easy servers have it just shows you have never been a server, except maybe one of those corporate places that hires all high school kids and gives them 3 table sections

Wrong on all counts actually. I've worked as a server in bars, and have covered serving shifts in most restaurants I've worked in, including many that are still a blur they were so busy.

How about 15 hour shifts?

My first restaurant job was 7am-midnight or later, six days a week. So yep, done that. And see again, knives, fire, burning things, all made more dangerous by hollow-eyed sleep deprivation. Ever slept on the floor of the restaurant because there's literally no point in going home to get forty minutes of sleep?

How about 15 hour shifts 17 days in a row with no break?

The next restaurant I worked in had just opened, was understaffed, and some of us on the line were in from 10am--for me, that was until close, anywhere between midnight and two. For three months. I think I maybe had a couple days off in there.

How about making only $300 for a sixty hour week because it's tax season and no one is eating out? How about 15 hours for $55 because it's Super Bowl Sunday?

How about you realize that I make the same no matter what, and what I make is always less than the servers, for more hours of work.

Often, they deliberately take a long time to make it, thereby pissing off the customer and hurting the server's tip. Yes, that's right, kitchen staff deliberately takes money out of servers' pockets.

Not in any restaurant I've ever worked in. And your impression is likely coming from servers simply not understanding how the kitchen actually functions--substitutions and special orders do take extra time, particularly if the special order is allergy-related, because those of us who are professional take the time to get completely clean equipment so as not to potentially send someone into anaphylaxis in the dining room. It's bad for business.

I frankly don't give a shit, I'm goddamn sick and tired of this attitude from kitchen staff, and someone needs to talk about what really goes on

What really goes on is the majority of servers aren't in it for a career, they're in it to make a buck, and consequently have neither interest in nor respect for how hard our jobs are and how shittily we are paid for it.

Oh and FYI I expo the restaurant I work at and the servers always get a please and thank you from me across the pass--our complaining is done strictly within the kitchen and doesn't impact the professionalism of the relationship between FOH and BOH.

What I find bizarre is that you outline every reason why relying on tips sucks, and then somehow conclude that getting rid of tipping and paying a living wage is somehow bad.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:35 PM on October 18, 2015


Geez, sounds like the job needs unions not just fixed compensation.

I would cheerfully give up a kidney for a kitchen union. Unfortunately the only way to be in a kitchen with a union job is basically to work in hotel cooking, which isn't much fun at all.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:43 PM on October 18, 2015




Not Enough Cooks in the Restaurant Kitchen
Most significant, of course, are measures that directly increase salaries. At her new restaurant, Petit Crenn, Ms. Crenn has eliminated waiters altogether and put the cooks and sommeliers to work in the dining room to funnel more money to the kitchen.

She is among several influential restaurant chef-owners — like Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz and Daniel Patterson — who have started charging diners a flat fee or service fee instead of accepting tips. The additional revenue is repurposed as additional pay for kitchen workers, who have long earned less than their counterparts in dining rooms.
posted by tonycpsu at 5:46 PM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


In defense of tipping - "I like to reward, but occasionally I like to punish"

"The whole race of men is kept in order by punishment."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:16 AM on October 21, 2015


Yeah, that's one of the shittiest aspects of tipping, that some people use it as a mechanism of control. It's kind of pathetic, because at the end of the day it makes little difference, but people do overestimate the power and meaning of their tips, and also how low servers are willing to stoop to earn them.
posted by Miko at 10:29 AM on October 21, 2015


> one of the shittiest aspects of tipping, that some people use it as a mechanism of control.

Is there another aspect to it? Isn't that the entire point?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 2:23 PM on October 21, 2015


Is there another aspect to it? Isn't that the entire point?

Hm, well, I really don't mean to be snarky but I think that only people who think that's the entire point think that's the entire point. Those people really tend to misunderstand tipping (it is a very poor mechanism for control, for reasons in this thread and the links, too). The majority of guests actually seem to understand that they're remunerating you for your service.
posted by Miko at 2:47 PM on October 21, 2015


Hm, well, I really don't mean to be snarky but I think that only people who think that's the entire point think that's the entire point

thanks. So clarify. Much wow.

If it was about renumeration for service it would be a salary. The only reason to use a tipping system in place of a salary is to allow the customer to control the renumeration, which theoretically affects the service. It's a bad reason. It works badly. That's why tipping is a bad system. There is no other reason for it to exist. The majority of guests understand that the theory of why tipping exists is bullshit, so they pretend it is a completely different system of comoulsory payments for service and say it works fine. I actually thought you were on board with that understanding so I wonder if you misunderstood me.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 4:12 PM on October 21, 2015


theoretically affects the service

Right, but it doesn't really reflect or affect the service. It reflects more about individual tipping habits. You can learn more about this by reading the link I keep harping on at the top of the thread, or referring to the studies by Cornell and others that show that people tip what they tip, pretty much regardless of service, except for a few people who tend to overestimate the power of their tip as a statement, comment, or control on server behavior. This is why I say that only a subset of people, who think that tipping will impact service, use it as a mechanism of control. But this mechanism does not work well at all, so this effect exists mainly within those people's minds. I hope that is somewhat clearer.

An investigation into the history of tipping even calls into the question the idea that it has taken hold to reward good service - it is not all that old in restaurant culture, dating to after the Civil War with the expansion of restaurants in the urban US. It was impacted by Prohibition and then the involvement of labor law in the 30s, and we ended up writing it into wage law at the behest of the restaurant lobby - which really screwed servers over, because once restaurant owners got used to paying only a limited hourly wage because of the presumption of tips, the tips at that point really did become servers' basic compensation - or what I think you're calling "compulsory payments for service." The tipped minimum wage so pleased the lobby that they managed to get it unlinked from periodic raises in the minimum wage, so it has not been raised in decades even though the minimum wage law has been. Corporate hospitality has pretty much managed to shift the costs of labor onto restaurant diners, meaning that what some people still think of as a gratuity for exceptional service (or a potential punishment for bad service) is really just the worker's basic wages.
posted by Miko at 5:48 PM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yea, that's exactly the point I made. It exists so people can control the server. It continues to exist because people believe it offers control over the server. If nobody believed in the link between tipping and çontrol, it would no longer exist. Therefore tipping exists because some people use it as a mechanism of control.

Which is where I started, and I don't know why you argued with that.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 6:55 PM on October 21, 2015


I don't even recall arguing with you over that. You barely said anything in the thread until recently. Do you mean where you asked "isn't that the entire point?" and I said that no, it's not, and then described why it is not, even though a minority of tippers mistakenly believe it is? Also, it's not exactly the point you made, because historically, tipping didn't exist for customers to control the server, it existed to make up a shortfall in wages while relieving employers from the burden of making it up themselves.

It continues to exist because people believe it offers control over the server. If nobody believed in the link between tipping and çontrol, it would no longer exist.

That's untrue. It continues to exist because (a), it's customary, and (b) there's no other way to pay a server under the present system.
posted by Miko at 8:16 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


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