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Restaurant Owner Eliminates Tipping to Ease Tension

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 The laws were later repealed, but the angst toward the tradition of tipping lives on in the minds of many American customers.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?


jnj213 jnj213 9 years
I am a server and I would love for this to happen. I get $2.13 an hour from the company I work for. I live off my tips I get maybe 2 paychecks a year with no more than $15 on them. Aside from my pay relying on people to tip, 3% of my sales is taken out as tipshare split between hosts, bartenders, and the expos in the kitchen. Getting a guaranteed 18% would be a vast improvement from just hoping people leave you more than 2 dollars. I think on the contrary, at least I know in the restaurant I work at servers would be more inclined to be guaranteed not to lose money on a table. If there is no tip, I pay the tipshare for that table regardless.
Sammi_784 Sammi_784 9 years
'would you be turned off by a permanent service fee?' - i would if the service was poor. introducing a mandatory service fee surely must have an effect on the service provided. if they know they're going to receive a tip/service charge/(whatever you want to call it) unconditionally, then they might not feel inclined to provide such a high standard of service than before when they had to 'earn' a tip.
amerikanbeanhead amerikanbeanhead 9 years
even though Im in college and I have never worked in the service industry I know how hard it is and how how much tips matter to them as far as salary. I tip 20% for decent service more if your amazing and always better if it someplace that I frequent like applebees. There is a waiter in mine that knows I want to start with a diet soda and where I prefer to sit. So I always tip him more. I think once or twice I tipped badly but that was because it was horrible service, I mean 30 min to even come take our drink order! I almost just left.
RockAndRepublic RockAndRepublic 9 years
Oh, please. It's a damn tip with a different name.
bchicgrl bchicgrl 9 years
I would be because 18% is really high when the average is 15% and goes up from there depending on the service. I don't think it would be fair to the really good servers if the bad ones made the same amount in tips. Isn't that the point on tipping anyway to basically "grade" the servers on their service with extra money.
quivondra quivondra 9 years
I don't mind a service fee, but I wish it was just included in the price. You get totally ripped off when you start buying bottles of wine.
refinedharmony refinedharmony 9 years
I don't really like this idea. Before I became a server at the restaurant I worked at, all the tips were contributed to the main "pot" and at the end of the night it was split up. If everyone does a crappy job, everyone gets crappy tips. If everyone does great, then you get a good-sized wad of cash to take home. However, the most likely case is there are servers in the same restaurant who perform all over the board; the really great servers who pull up the pot for everyone else, and the really terrible servers who don't contribute much at all. The good server doesn't get what they earned, and the bad server gets rewarded for poor service. Luckily they changed that policy, each server earning their own tips... if you wanted to take home good money you had to work for it! The system proposed doesn't encourage a server to be better than the rest, or to go above and beyond. I like controlling what I tip and (even as a previous waitress) I will tip poorly if I have bad service. It's part of the job.
ilanac13 ilanac13 9 years
well i have to think about when i was living overseas and there was no tipping - and the servers all seemed to be ok with things there. it kind of makes things easier when you don't have to factor things in, but i have to say though that when i have a really really really awful server, i don't always want to tip 15-20% and with the service fee added in, now i have no choice and they will still get the 'tip'. i always took tipping to mean 'yes you're doing your job, but if you do it better then i'll give you more' and if i don't have that choice, then i get a bit upset. if it eliminates the whole stress piece for the staff though - since they don't have to duke it out as much for doling out portions of their earnings, then maybe that's a good thing from a business standpoint.
Berlin Berlin 9 years
It's a SERVICE INDUSTRY and if you are going out for the service, then you should pay the tip accordingly. I certainly don't mind tipping and as a bartender, my income depends on it! And when I go out, I tip about 20-25% standard, unless it's really bad service. But if it's so bad that i'd drop the tip significantly, I'd say something to the manager on the side. That way the other patrons won't have to deal with the bad service AND the server doesn't think that they were tipped "poorly" and give even worse to the next table! But depending on the restaurant/bar, you will never be paid enough hourly to cover what you would make in tips. I don't know anywhere where you'd get paid upwards of $45/hr, so I'm not in favor of this, but then that's just in my side of the industry! I would think that if you're in a high end restaurant that you would fare better if the practice was not in place. I completely feel it should be tact on for large parties though, but as a regular couple going out...not something I'd like.
Renees3 Renees3 9 years
I don't think this should be enacted at every restaurant, but at the ones they're talking about, they can get away with it. Places that never have an issue with really poor service, it wouldn't be an issue. But at a diner in SF, we had the WORST service ever (like my boyfriend walking over to the counter and pouring his own coffee after waiting 20 min for our waiter to come back out of the vortex he dissapeared into), and I don't think that people should be obligated to leave ANYTHING if they don't want to. I don't know about everywhere, but I've worked in a few restaurants (some small family owned, a couple chains) and we were always payed minimum wage at least and then tipped on top of that. So it's not like we made NOTHING but you're tips did make up the majority of your pay.
hithatsmybike hithatsmybike 9 years
As a server myself, I don't know where I'd stand on this issue. A mandatory fee takes care of the people that don't know how to tip or don't tip at all, but it also extremely limits income from the ones that do. Servers are paid like crap in the US though, so this is a nice way of supplementing their income. I worked at a restaurant there as a hostess (I was too young to serve) and they made like $2.18/hr plus tips. It was horrible. Here I serve for $8.40/hr plus tips. The difference is considerable, so I don't mind my tip percentage being up to me and how hard I'm willing to work. Granted, there are bastard cheap asses that won't fork over a dime no matter what you do for them, but most customers respond positively when you go the extra mile and I like to have the opportunity to do that.
hippiecowgirl hippiecowgirl 9 years
I know a lot of people who are horrible tippers and refuse to leave more than 10% and that's if the service is perfect. For that reason, I can see where this could be beneficial. However, I'm a very generous tipper and usually end up leaving more than 20% if I think the service is really good. I like being the one to dictate how much I tip. I think service does suffer in "average" restaurants when the gratuity is automatically added.
elle619 elle619 9 years
It's a tough call, I've eaten at the restaraunt that the article speaks about on many occasions. The service of 18% surprised me the first time out but the waitstaff is incredible and I would have left 20%. So in this case I don't mind it, but not all restaraunts deliver exceptional service.
filmgirl81 filmgirl81 9 years
I'm conflicted about this. When I go to countries where there is no tip system, it is very obvious the service is really poor. I like it when my server pays attention to me, and I tip them based on their service.
cubadog cubadog 9 years
I completely agree with you Diedre restaurants that are moving towards this are high end and it totally makes sense. Too many times the kitchen is not rewarded with any tip and that is something that everyone needs to think about when you are having dinner.
HeidiMD HeidiMD 9 years
I think servers need higher wages anyways, but I wouldn't mind an included gratuity (although it think it should be lower if servers were at least receiving minimum wage). I REALLY don't like feeling obligated to reward poor service.
psterling psterling 9 years
I agree telewyo, pay the staff better and eliminate the extra fee. Even if it comes out that I'm paying the same, I'm less annoyed not seeing that extra fee tacked on.
Phasekitty Phasekitty 9 years
If they're going to eliminate tipping then I hope they're paying their staff better than the usual server's wage. When I was a waitress a few years ago I was only making $2.85/hour. I relied on those good tips for my salary. My paychecks were all voided after taxes had been taken out. So 18% on every table might seem nice, but I think servers rely on those good tippers out there that give between 20-30% for great service.
telewyo telewyo 9 years
If it's a permanent fee then just add it to the price of the food and pay your staff better. The whole concept of the tip was a little added something to show your appreciation. In other countries the staff are paid a livable wage and a tip is still a tip. That's the way it should be.
Deidre Deidre 9 years
I wouldn't be turned off by the service fee in this instance. The thing is, the restarants mentioned in this item are all the creme de la creme. Not only are they renound for their food, but the service is set at a much higher standard than most regular restaurants. I would say for these types of places, it's not a bad move and most of their patrons would not have a problem with it (and would even try to tip additionally beyond the 18%). If a service fee is set at 18%, I would imagine the restaurant owner would hold his service staff to very high expectations.
pixelhaze pixelhaze 9 years
It shouldn't be that high. 10% is the mandatory service charge in other countries. And when the service is awful that's how much I leave (since I know the tip is for everyone, not just the waiter). When the service is great I leave 20%, but that hardly ever happens, despite how much your waiter friends might gripe.
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