Restaurant in New York City Bans Tipping

No tipping allowed

No tipping allowed

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.


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43 thoughts on “Restaurant in New York City Bans Tipping

  1. Katie

    Good for the servers at that restaurant. It’s about time we started getting treated like “real people” with wages and benefits. Seems more than fair.

  2. SisterBenedict

    Good for this restaurant for treating servers like the professionals that they are. I’m glad the staff are receiving proper respect.

    Even though tipping would not be expected there, I would still want to tip if my server was particularly attentive. I’m a vegan and sometimes I have to make special requests with my food. Also, I drink a lot of water that needs to be refilled. I don’t want to be the Pain In The Ass customer who gets discussed amongst the staff. I want to be remembered as a nice person who appreciates a job well done!

    And as it stands now, at every other restaurant, I tip a *minimum* of 20%. If the service sucks I’ll ask to speak to a manager so I can be moved, but only if the service is intolerable AND the server has a shitty attitude. (Service sucks but it’s someone brand new? I deal.)

    Love your blog!

  3. shayna

    I think that for a restaurant to pay servers what they expect to make ($15-40/hour depending on the establishment of employment) that many places would go out of business trying to provide these types of benefits. Maybe rather than a flat salary, an idea is to add a flat 20% to all tabs. Servers/bartenders would still have better and worse nights, but it would take away the factor of working your butt off and getting less than ideal tips because guests are cheap, uneducated, intoxicated, or all of the above. In my years in the industry, I have noticed that tip percentages have declined in recent years because of the flailing economy, while many people have decided that they are F&B experts due to their observance of shows such as Kitchen Nightmares, Restaurant Impossible, etc.

    1. SisterBenedict

      I think you’re on to something. I’m sure you’ve notice that when Chef Ramsay is filming at a restaurant fifty people send their food back, when they never would have the gears to do this in Real Life because they’d be afraid of food sabotage.

    2. David

      “($15-40/hour depending on the establishment of employment)” Ridiculous. Waiting tables is supposed to be cheap, unskilled labor, not a profession. I’ll eat where the food is good and the prices cheap (meaning a party of two can escape for $10-$15).

      1. Lola

        David it seems like you are cheap, unskilled, not professional and dumb… not everybody wants to eat at McDonalds… I’d really hate if u asked me on a date, let alone be your waitress… I am not against cheap and good food.. but party of two for $10-$15?? where the heck do you usually eat and what do you eat?? it’s people like you that should get a job in a restaurant just once in your life !!

      2. Ashley

        Wow, David, you are certainly a huge cheapskate. I rarely make less than $20/hour and sometimes over $30/hour. Please spare the servers you might come into contact with some grief and continue eating from Taco Bell’s value menu (about the only place two people can eat for $10) where tips aren’t expected. Also, if you think serving is unskilled labor, I invite you to spend a busy Saturday night trying to keep up with me.

      3. happy server

        @David….. REALLY?? Cheap?? Unskilled?? Get real buddy…. I have been a server for 15 years. Yes I am quite skilled in what I do. In fact last year on my W2 – I made $4800 0. So how about that “unskilled”. Think about that statement next time you dine out. Watch your server memorize and interact very smoothly with their guest and have everything brought out and taken very well care of…. Or in your case be n ass and enjoy that food that EVERYONE in the kitchen has now had there “unskilled” way with….

      4. jeska

        Unskilled labor, REALLY? Obviously you have never waited tables, so i will give you the benefit of the doubt that you are just ignorant. VERY ignorant. I just had to take a county certification test today to be a “food Handler”. This cost me 15$ ever 3 years and is an investment in my CAREER. Yes, i said career, as I have been in this industry for 22 years. I work for a company that has revolutionized the food service industry, working directly with state heath departments,devolving safe food handling practices, as well as environmental organizations to set in place programs for future farming of seafood. Yes, I said farming seafood. As a server, I have to take MANY, MANY certifications on food handling and alcohol distribution. Not to mention the days at work I spend on my days off(as many servers do) attending meetings to gain menu knowledge on new promotions and new menu items. There is way more training, testing, and certifications then you can even imagine involved with this “unskilled un-profession”…..

        1. GlassesMcGee

          Hear me out here… I’m mostly ambiguous when it comes to tipping since I don’t normally go to places that I can’t afford, so there’s that. But in response to the whole skilled/unskilled/non-profession thing:

          It is unskilled labor. Anyone with a good personality who has the ability to remember orders and balance a tray can become a successful server. It takes zero training other than “this is the menu, learn it. Also sometimes we have promotional deals.” Other than that, it’s keeping up with whatever new martini someone adds to the menu.
          I think it’s great that your company has made advancements– but what contribution, really, did you make as a server? Your employers are the ones who collaborated with the health departments, environmental organizations, etc, not you.

          And I wouldn’t tout having to upkeep a food handler’s cert quite so loudly. There are many of us who work jobs that are quantitatively harder and more stressful for zero tips and shit pay. For example I am a paramedic. To even get my cert that will afford me a career where I’ll make less than $14/h saving people’s lives I had to pay about $450 in testing fees alone, not to mention paying for national and state certifications that I have to pay for and renew in three years that I’ll only get if I have the appropriate amount of continuing education hours. That I get on my days off.

          I’m not saying this to be inflammatory, I’m just stating facts. And yes, I have worked in the food service industry and I saw it for what it was: a ways to a means. If you need the money and you need to eat, by all means work as a server. It’s not meant to be a career. It is however a great jumping off point and an admirable way to earn money while working your way through college, etc. Anything’s better than stripping.

      5. Groovekitten

        I think it’s safe to say that David is a troll and just trying to get a rise out of everyone. Best to ignore losers like this.

      6. frank

        right lola, this david dude prolly pulls no hoes! 15 for 2 people? if i’m taking a girl I like out that shits like $20 entree’s per person

  4. Brianna

    I think the big draw here would be ‘benefits package including vacation and sick days’. One of the worst things about waiting tables, for me, was the total lack of safety net if I, say, broke my arm or got the killer flu. An unplanned week or so of no work is terrifying, and you’re also running the risk of the restaurant just dying ‘fuck it’, taking you off the schedule and hiring someone else.

    This place seems like they’re investing in their employees, and I’d gladly take a small ‘potential income’ cut for the security of not going bankrupt if some asshole hits me in a crosswalk or if my SO demands a vacation, goddamnit, you’re always working all the time.

  5. Ludicrous

    Is the restaurant specifically banning tipping as in stating to customers not to do it. Most restaurants in London add 12.5% onto a bill (optional as it’s the UK and they don’t want to upset anyone) and use this to boost everyones wage above the UK minimum wage (£6.19ph) by a couple of pounds and allow the servers to keep anything paid extra as a bonus. There are many people who will not pay anything above this but there are many people who either want to tip more or don’t read the check properly and tip on top. I don’t think you can change some people and will still leave tips on top of this.

    So yes I think most people would accept this, If the UK is anything to go by I reckon you could expect to walk away with something like $30-40 a shift on top of a decent hourly rate (and as you’re already getting paid well you can probably put this money in your pocket and not pay any taxes on it)

    1. maxi

      As a server in the UK I have never worked for a restaurant that charges service except for parties over 6, and even then its optional!

      And I’m sorry, but £6.19ph is not a decent hourly rate, especially in if you live in London!

  6. Karin Wolchko

    Sounds good…..But will customers want to pay the increase. Especially those who are low tippers or feel they got poor service. Some won’t do the math. They’ll just see a high price and head for the hills.

  7. Joshua A.

    I do not think that a restaurant with the balls to do this would allow “Mr. Lazy Server” to work there. OTOH, I can see how the best servers might get a bit of a pay cut but I think it would be totally worth it to have benefits and be treated like a real person.

    Also, you don’t have to pander to a-holes just because you are trying to get a tip out of them. I’m not saying be rude to everyone, just that there are certain things we’ve all put up with just to get a tip.

  8. chacha1

    I’m in favor. Like Joshua A. says, the potential for a pay cut would IMO be outweighed by the benefits. For every Saturday night that could mean $120 in tips, after all, there are six other nights that might mean $20.

    I would especially appreciate this being nationwide and immediate so that all the a-holes out there saying “get a real job” (when they themselves, if employed at all, don’t have jobs with benefits) would have to suck it.

  9. Ashley

    Nearly every other country in the world does it this way and I never understood why we are different. I would much rather make a guaranteed $15-20/hour and possibly get a little on top for being awesome than have to guess whether I’m taking home 10% of my sales after tipout or 20%. I am lucky enough to already work for a company where I get medical, dental and vision insurance, 401k, and paid time off (although it is at minimum wage).

  10. Swiss

    They do however get full benefits, so does that outweigh the lack of tips? I think it’s awesome they get a salary and benefits.

  11. Mari

    First, love the bot verification! It’s similar to the verification I have to prove I’m awake in the morning, and it entertains me then too.

    Bravo for the restaurant honor, especially for including things like benefits – I have only had benefits in one place of employment, and I didn’t get to take advantage of it before I schlepped across the country. I think it shows that not all of the restauranteurs out there are thoughtless jackasses.

    Then again, maybe it’s not going to be THAT livable…

  12. Rick

    I have been in the industry for 30 years, done it all, and I tell you serving guests is not only a skill but also a special talent. I have seen many come and go, and the truly successful ones “have it in their blood”. You have to have the ability to act happy all the time, deal with idiots and ignoramus’ mean people and just plain cheap asses. Yet the great ones go on about the day with a smile laugh off the dumb stuff and provide a truly outstanding guest experience.

    If that is all “unskilled labor” then i dont want to be skilled. 😉 I am currently a restaurant manager and loving the total madness of it all.

  13. aj

    I am somewhat in favor of this but i think hourly pay should be more on holidays especially mothers day which is a living hell. I also think david should be troll of the week

  14. Bri

    I lived in Europe for a few years, where tipping is not the norm. As a former server, I watched these professional servers doing their job with a careful eye…there’s little smiling, little contact with the table, they don’t come check on you “as soon as the customer takes the first bite,” getting someone to refill your glass was near impossible…
    What I’m trying to say is, we have GREAT waiters here in the states, because their livelihood depends on great service. As Americans we expect a certain level of service that we just wouldn’t get if they didn’t have to kiss our ass. We weed out seriously bad servers because they can’t make ends meet.
    So in my humble opinion–let’s keep it the way it is. I love overtipping and making someone’s night, because I remember waiting on a couple with small children and getting that 10 on 30 for my effort…it makes up for that crotchety old man with his grown son leaving me 3.77 on 36.23.

  15. Jim Lowman

    Over the years, largely due to the manipulation of labor laws, a tip has gone from a bonus for a job well done to an expectation of 20%

    I’m all for servers, bartenders, etc. getting a living wage and benefits. I can’t imagine having to deal with an injury, hospitalization or loss of a loved one while at the same time being worried that I have zero income and may return to find that I no longer have a job.

    Serving is like any other job – get enough complaints and the lazy-asses will get fired.

    This, from the other side of the table, and a consistent 20% tipper.

  16. sunshinebear

    That’s how it is in Australia and has been since… well, for as long as I can remember. People still tip here; it’s rare, but if you do a stellar job often people want to reward the individual and not the company – sometimes it’s a token, sometimes more, but the sentiment is the same. Casuals are paid slightly higher than permanents to compensate for the lack of security, but all employees get superannuation. It works pretty well too! I just can’t understand why America can’t work out a better deal for their servers.

  17. Kyle

    I think it’s a step in the right direction, and the more media exposure it gets could be helpful in eventually creating a true safety net for ourselves mainly in regards to benefits, sick days and a real vacation instead of just short breakaways when scheduling permits, no longer with the fear of getting written off the schedule by bitter, inept management of course. But I would like to know what exactly the said salary is of this reported establishment. Also, with a salary and no tips (though it doesn’t necessarily stop a guest from sliding a cash tip if they so desire), any and all previous credit card tips would no longer be killing the bi-weekly paychecks down to next to nothing, so there could be some good to that as long as the IRS doesn’t intercept with a new scam to take more.

    However, in the article it did say that there was a 15% service charge on all items. I’m curious as to where that 15% goes and how it’s applied within the system of overall coverage. Does it take care of the benefits? Does it all just go to the top? Until we know all the numbers, there are still questions. The most difficult factor of transition with this will be getting used to relying mostly on just the bi-weekly paychecks to get by on. But if the paychecks were weekly, that would not only be easier, it would be more convenient and less stressful, to pay the bills.

    Aside from this post discussion, let’s not forget the place in Virginia that operates by offering quarterly profit shares to its long-term staff. This is what the owner had to say in Restaurant Briefing – “When the quarterly sales quota is exceeded at Peking Restaurant, every person on staff gets a share of profits, including part-time workers who receive a percentage based on the hours they worked. Owner Vincent Chu started the program because he wanted to give his people raises but couldn’t afford to. By allowing employees to share in whatever profits the restaurant makes-profits that they help earn-Vincent is able to reward them with added compensation. He posts weekly sales figures so the employees can keep tabs on their progress. Quarterly shares range from $400 to $800 per employee”. Impact: “This profit-sharing system encourages my staff to work as a team and, as a consequence, the operation really runs smoothly. Not only have sales increased, but our turnover has been cut in half,” says Vincent.

  18. Sarah

    I like my tips. I’m not waiting tables for minimum wage unless that wage is equivalent to what I make now, which is pretty good. Of course, I’m lucky enough to live in California where I earn 8/hr plus tips (I still don’t see a paycheck, though, and that’s alright).

  19. Jen

    I would do unspeakable things for $ 8/hr plus tips… It’s been $2.13/hr here in Texas( one place gave 2.15, hooray for 2 cents) for as long as I can remember.

  20. ronnette

    How come no one has said what the good pay would be. And also does the server get the whole 20 percent that the house collects. I doubt it! If s server is always getting bad tips then that is the servers fault.

  21. Nick

    If all of the servers are in favor of making $40+/hour with full benefits, sick, and holiday pay, are they going to pass along all of those amenities to their co-workers in the kitchen and in the dishpits? Probably not. If you are all “professionals” then why isnt the restaurant mentioned in the article the norm? Answer: they know your type. Single moms always calling in sick or late because of some sick brat or court date to collect your child support check. Always wanting to go home when the restaurant isnt busy. Will quit in an instant whenever the newest restaurant in town opens because thats where the money at the moment is. Servers are all alike. Self deserving, thinking they are owed the world for doing what is laid out in a job description. Then, when an “appropriate” tip is not given to them, insults fly to the patron. A customer doesn’t tip what you calculate as “deserved”, and you call them uneducated? Hmmmmm….. perhaps an education would get you that $15-40 per hour job which is so sought after, and you wouldn’t have to clean up after people for handouts.

      1. Debbie Morella-Haynes

        Ouch, Nick. Saying that servers “are all alike………..”, is like saying, “all commenters on restaurant blogs don’t know what they’re talking about”. The fact is, the *majority* of servers are the exact opposite of the *opinion* you expressed. Sorry to hear that you’ve had so many bad experiences to base it on. 🙁

        1. Nick

          You’re right. I should not have said that servers are “all alike.” A similar blanket statement earlier in this thread is what really pissed me off in the first place. “guests are cheap, uneducated, intoxicated….” However, the fact of the matter is that there is most definitely a “type” of person who is a server. The job does not pay well, and it is for that reason alone that there has become a “type.” Servers are a dime a dozen. Not good servers, just servers. When you can walk into any restaurant at any time and get a job waiting tables, it should stand to reason that the restaurant has no faith in their current staff and also knows you are just looking for a money grab. The restaurant industry in general is probably the worst industry to work in in the whole country. No position pays well, not even management. I worked very hard to get to what was thought to be an illustrious position in management at a restaurant, and come to find out, it is probably the worst position to work at a restaurant. It is a very fucked up industry and I do think we should follow the lead of EVERY OTHER COUNTRY ON THE PLANET and do away with this nonsense. If we did, we wouldn’t even be typing back and forth to one another. Obviously, they have all figured it out. Why can’t we?

    1. aj

      Ok. Nick you r being an ass. Picking at single parents is terrible. Obviously you have never had to raise a child or put anyone before yourself.

      1. Metalwolf

        And Aj, just as it is terrible to assume being a single parent makes someone an automatic saint? Just because a person is a parent doesn’t mean they should be above criticism. In fact, it’s this lack of criticism that makes them act like assholes when it comes to their kids and is the seeds of a brat ban movement in restaurants.
        And just because someone isn’t kissing single parent ass, doesn’t always mean they don’t have kids. You’d be surprised at how a lot of other parents are getting sick of the bad parental behavior, just as much as non-childed folks.

        And benefits and salery for servers just like us regular folks? It’s about time!

  22. Tracy

    I was in the industry for about 20 years before I left to become an attorney. I’ve seen the whole spectrum of restaurants, servers, owners, and guests. I worked as a dishwasher, cook, bus boy, waiter, captain, host, manager, semollier, and eventually I was an owner. I’ve been an awesome server, a lazy server, an attentive server, an arrogant ass, and everything in between. I haven’t seen everything, but I’ve seen or done most of it.

    That said, I’ve worked in “pool and split” houses and “eat what you kill” houses. I’ve not worked in a Chez Panisse type environment as described above ($30/hr to start with raises as you gain senority) but I’ve know people there as well.

    I think people are generally going to work as hard as they are accostomed to — money be damned. In pool houses, I did notice a number of waiters “milking” the clock to get more hours (and a larger split of the pool). In regular shops, I’ve seen waiters habitually bail out ASAP and miss good chunks of change.

    In the end, I don’t think it really matters. If I were to go back now and choose I guess I’d take a straight tip house but it’s not a strong preference. In the long run it all evens out. In the long run, only a special few can stick in this biz as it’s a young person’s game. I got out at 35 and that was probably 3 years too late. I was making $120k after taxes working 5 nights a week an couldn’t bring myself to consistently be on time or give excellent service on slower nights. I was jaded and got out; many do not.

    There are few very high end places wherein the service staff work as and are treated as professionals. But those are the exception and most places don’t think of serving as a “career” but rather as a rest stop while one figures out his “real job.” The US is not Europe, so we don’t have that career service mentality.

  23. stuart

    First off, yes, it is illegal that we don’t get paid for being there while the restaurant is closed, but that’s a fact of restaurant life, just like being unsure of what you’re going to make in tips. Don’t get me wrong, tipping culture sucks. the idea is my cheap boss doesn’t want to pay me so I beg the assholes at my table for a few bucks? it’s bullshit. but I’m 19 and in college, so in an 8 hour shift, my friends who work at mcdonalds or chuck e. cheese make $64 (before taxes), and I come home with $160 cash in my pocket. I’ve had good nights and bad nights, but if I came into work one day and my boss told me we were all going to be paid hourly instead of by tips, (and the number was under $20/hour), I’d be out of there so fast you’d see a puff of smoke where I was standing.


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