Friday, October 18, 2013

The Weekly Open Thread: The Tipless Restaurant

Posted By on Fri, Oct 18, 2013 at 5:50 AM

There was an article on Slate that caught my eye a couple months back, about a San Diego restaurant, The Linkery, that abolished tipping. Well, it didn't exactly abolish it — an 18 percent service charge was added to each bill. But the restaurant refused to accept any additional tip on top of the service charge. The restaurant owner closed the restaurant this year to move to San Francisco, but he claims that for six years, his policy worked, and even improved the service, the food and the happiness of his waitstaff.

An excerpt:

When we switched from tipping to a service charge, our food improved, probably because our cooks were being paid more and didn't feel taken for granted. In turn, business improved, and within a couple of months, our server team was making more money than it had under the tipped system. The quality of our service also improved. In my observation, however, that wasn't mainly because the servers were making more money (although that helped, too). Instead, our service improved principally because eliminating tips makes it easier to provide good service.

It’s easy to understand why this is. Before I started working in hospitality, I worked in the tech industry, making fancy software for television set-top boxes. I was part of a skilled team in a challenging field, and we were expected to do our best work. Our compensation system followed two basic patterns. First, we negotiated our pay rarely, typically only at the beginning of a project (for freelancers) or once or twice a year (for salaried workers). We weren’t interrupted every hour or so with a trickle of payment that was supposedly based on how well were perceived to have done a recent task. Second, we were compensated by, and we negotiated with, the organization that employed us, not the consumers who benefited from our work. We didn't have to call up the end customers of our products and ask them to pay us for our work. (“Hi, Mr. Jones, I hope you've enjoyed using the auto-record feature on your cable box. You know, it took me like three weeks to write that code and I was wondering if I could get some payment for that.”)

What do you think, folks? Could that idea work at a Nashville restaurant? And if any restaurant servers are reading this, what do you think about the policy?

And what else is on your mind? Anyone tried The Treehouse? The Farm House? Any other new restaurants, even without "house" in the name?

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