Are we headed for the end of restaurant tipping? Yet another eatery is opening up to great fanfare, mostly because it has decided to do away with tips.
The Brand 158 restaurant in Glendale, Calif., has adopted the no-tipping policy because owner Gabriel Frem said he wanted to discourage competition between his employees. And he isn't including a service charge or upping his prices to make up for it, either.
Frem's theory is that tips disrupt the working environment and leave workers unsure of their take-home pay from week to week. "We think that if we stabilize the lives of our employees, they can then focus on the customer," he told The Los Angeles Times.
No-tip restaurants are by no means common, but the idea is starting to take hold across the country. In New York, a Japanese-style pub called Restaurant Riki has banned the practice because it's more in line with Japanese customs. It's raised prices to compensate.
Another restaurant, Sushi Yasuda, even goes so far as to chase down customers who left in order to return their tips. According to owner Scott Rosenberg, diners are tired of having to rate their servers and then doing the tip math based on the performance.
A new brewpub scheduled to open this fall in Washington, D.C. will also do away with tipping. The founder of the restaurant, Public Option, plans to pay workers at least $15 an hour. Any money left on the tables will go to charity.
The CEO of Noodles & Co. (NDLS) recently went on CNBC to say he doesn't want tipping at his restaurants either. "We don't really feel that folks should have to pay something additional for us to appreciate that they're choosing us over another restaurant," Kevin Reddy said.
Noodles' employees probably wouldn't see big tips anyway, since customers line up at a counter to order. But Reddy said that he pays his workers enough to make sure missing tips are not a problem.
Some of the most famous restaurants in the country, including Per Se in New York and California restaurants French Laundry and Chez Panisse, also discourage tipping in favor of a service charge.
And it seems that Americans themselves are becoming less inclined to tip. A recent survey from consumer research firm Vouchercloud.net says that 46 percent of Americans are tipping less now than five years ago.
One of the big problems with tipping is that it's blatantly unfair, and savvy servers have figured out how to game the system. Researchers have even studied the psychological tactics servers use to get more money out of diners. According to New Republic, here are the things that work:
Touching customers. The shoulder pat is pretty effective, but what really works is touching diners' hands.
Crouching at the table. Getting eye level with diners increased tips by as much as 25 percent, researchers found.
Drawing smiley faces on checks. This only works for female servers, though. Diners actually reduced their tips when men drew faces.
Being a blonde. Blondes get more tips than women with any other hair color.
Wearing a flower in the hair. Again, probably something that only works with women servers.
Wearing red. Men especially left larger tips for waitresses in red.
It all goes to show that tipping as a practice is inherently flawed. But many restaurants running on razor-thin margins depend on customer tips to make up for the incredibly low compensation they give workers.
Until restaurant owners pay a living wage -- a policy many say they can't afford -- tipping will be there to pick up the slack. But diners are increasingly getting opportunities to voice their opinions about tipping.
As more no-tip restaurants open, customers can decide where to spend their money and whether to reward an eatery that encourages tipping over one that bans it. Depending on how diners vote, we could see more no-tip restaurants in the future.
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