After something shows up in my inbox a few times, I figure it’s time to check it out. Okay, that line sounded like something a two-dollar hooker would say as she stands at Pier 40 looking at her crotch, but anyhoo. There is a restaurant here in New York City that has taken the step that so many customers want: they have made tipping a thing of the past. Sushi Yasuda has made the news by announcing that customers will no longer be expected to tip because their servers are paid a salary including benefits packages with vacation and sick days. Call the police, there’s a mad man in town by the name of Scott Rosenberg who is the co-owner. “The reason we did it that way was because in Japan, that’s how it’s done,” he told the New York Times. The restaurant has added a 15% service charge to the cost of all items on the menu so customers can put down their iPhones and stop looking for the app that tells them how to tip.
What do we think about this? My mind is kind of blown. Does this mean that servers will want to work there or does it mean they will want to leave? I suspect a little bit of both. Imagine, if you will, that you are one of those servers who routinely gets 20-25% because you are so freaking good at your job. You know how to squeeze tips out of the tightest wallet and customers think they are doing you a favor by giving you an extra twenty dollar bill. Now imagine that you are that waiter who skates by by doing the bare minimum but consistently getting 15%. For Lazy Waiter, a straight salary could mean that he can make more money by doing even less than he had before. For Waiter Supreme (just like a Taco Supreme but instead of sour cream, he comes with a wine key) a straight salary may cut into what he is used to pocketing. A conundrum indeed.
It certainly makes it easier for the restaurant owner who now does not have to worry about pooling percentages or credit card tips going on to paychecks or making sure that everyone is claiming the appropriate amount for taxes. It’s a straight shot: you worked for this many hours so you make this much money. As a server, I would way rather be getting paid a decent hourly rate during that time before we open while I am doing sidework. I have always thought it was unfair, and maybe even illegal, to be paid less than minimum wage while doing sidework because I have yet to have a ketchup bottle or a salt and pepper shaker leave me a tip. But it might be hard to make only $17 an hour when I know that I can sometimes make way more than that if the circumstances are right.
Of course, it would be nice to know what kind of living wage these servers at Sushi Yasuda are getting. When I was a cater-waiter, I got anywhere from between 15-20 dollars an hour and I was always quite content with it. Occasionally, we would get an extra tip but that was gravy and not usually expected. Well, the bartenders always got tips that they got to keep and it always pissed me off because we servers were working just as hard as they were, if not harder, and they were not expected to share it with us. But when I worked a seven-hour shift, I knew exactly how much I could expect at the end of the day. Bad weather, shitty tippers and slow cook times were not a factor. When everyone is making the same amount, don’t you think it balances out the level of service the customer receives? Waitresses won’t feel the need to flirt with the men on expense accounts and waiters won’t have to worry that they just got sat with a four top of 100 year-old ladies who will drink hot tea for five hours. You can’t turn your table over? It’s fine. You will make the same amount of money so just give the customer the service they deserve and your pocket will be compensated.
It will be interesting to see if more restaurants take this approach as the issue of tipping continues to make the news. How many bad tippers will have to have their receipt put on the Internet before people begin to refuse to tip at all. Will restaurants learn that they will get better employees if they treat the job of waiting tables as a “real job?” Will more servers find that they can simply enjoy their job if they know they don’t have to scrounge for every table to make their rent? If they know how much they will make before they start, maybe it will allow them to put the focus back on the customer. After all, we are in the customer service industry. Shouldn’t the customer get the best service possible? Maybe by giving servers a fair living wage is the way to do that.
What are your thoughts on a restaurant banning tipping and paying a real wage instead? Please share them in the comments section.