In October, the ever-dramatic world of NYC dining was set abuzz when Union Square Hospitality Group titan Danny Meyer (Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern) announced that he would eliminate tipping at all 13 of his restaurants. At each property, Meyer told the New York Times, hourly wages for both workers would increase significantly in an effort to attract and retain skilled waitstaff and cooks. To cover these higher wages, the cost of menu items would increase a lot—upwards of 20 percent—and the line for gratuities would be eliminated from the restaurants’ checks.
The announcement immediately set off a chain reaction in the media, with both local and national outlets explaining, and opining on, Meyer’s move. Here’s the thing, though: a no-tipping policy is old news. Way back in 2005, another hospitality honcho, Per Se chef Thomas Keller eliminated tips at his already-pricy Time Warner Center spot, tacking on a flat service fee of 20 percent instead. And in 2013, Midtown raw-fish temple Sushi Yasuda and hot-ticket Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare both nixed the tradition.
The difference with Meyer is volume: his city-wide establishments serve around 50,000 meals per week, a real game-changer that has an increasing number of city restos following suit. We’ve organized them here in a rough timeline and we’ll continue to add to the list as policies, inevitably, change.
Restaurant: Per Se
Tip-free as of: 2005
Policy particulars: A 20 percent service charge is tacked onto diners’ checks—but, confusingly, optional gratuities are still accepted.
Higher-priced menu items cover the cost of all workers’ yearly salaries.
Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare
A flat $306 (plus tax) includes a compulsory 20 percent service fee.
The Midtown izakaya followed in the footsteps of neighbor Sushi Yasuda (and of Japan, where tipping isn’t customary) when it raised menu prices and nixed tips last year.
Amanda Cohen’s inventive vegetarian spot dropped tipping when it reopened in its new LES home last winter, adding a 20 percent administration fee (different than a service fee because funds are used throughout the restaurant, not just for paying staff).
This pizzeria serves up wood-fired pies—and it also torched tipping when it opened over the summer, charging a 20 percent administrative fee instead.
Celeb chef Tom Colicchio moonlights as a food activist, demonstrated in part by his fall move of nixing lunchtime tips at his flagship New American spot.
Following owner Danny Meyer’s October announcement of his grand plan, his MoMA property became the first to initiate tip-free meals. In lieu of gratuity, the prices of menu items were raised significantly.
The well-established Italian eatery in Gramercy has added a 20 percent administrative fee to checks.
The critically adored East Village tapas restaurant did away with tips just recently, upping food prices about 25 percent and drink prices about 15 percent in order to pay its staff better.
This new Korean BBQ-karaoke spot in Gowanus, from the owners of Red Hook’s The Good Fork, opened its doors already tip-free, charging the by-now-familiar 20 percent admin fee instead.
Eleven Madison Park
January 1, 2016
Daniel Humm and Will Guidara’s super-upscale New American restaurant recently announced it would be adopted a service-included model, hiking the price of its tasting menu up to $295 from $225.
January 1, 2016
The Michelin-starred Wburg spot will ring in the new year tip-free, raising a la carte prices about 17 percent instead.
January 4, 2016
Gabriel Stulman will eliminate tipping at his West Village hotspot Fedora in January, bumping up the cost of menu items instead.
January 18, 2016
Brooklyn restaurateur Andrew Tarlow has announced his intentions to phase at tipping at all of his properties—including Diner and Marlow & Sons—by the end of next year. He’s kicking off the experiment at this Fort Greene Italian place, where the price of menu items will rise roughly 20 percent.