Tipping was brought to the US from Europe after the Civil War and was met with opposition — six states even passed anti-tipping laws that prevented diners from having to tip. The laws were later repealed, but the angst toward the tradition of tipping lives on in the minds of many American customers. San Diego, CA, restaurant owner Jay Porter observed that tipping was not only a point of contention for his customers, but was also causing tension between his staff members and adding to the stressful environment.
Porter channeled iconic restaurateurs Alice Waters and Thomas Keller in his proposal to the casual dining staff to replace tipping with a service charge. Waters was first to establish this policy at the esteemed Chez Panisse in Berkeley, and then Keller did the same thing in his French Laundry and Per Se restaurants. Porter's staff was supportive of his idea to impose an 18 percent service fee to be split three-to-one between the front of the house and the kitchen. Only one of his eight servers quit after the new policy was enacted, and his remaining servers acknowledge the elimination of tipping has reduced tension between servers.
The system is obviously working so far for Porter and his staff, but as a customer, would you be turned off by a permanent service fee?