Whither Restaurant Tipping? NYC Could Set New Trend

NEW YORK (Reuters) -

The centuries-old tradition of tipping at New York restaurants predates the Statue of Liberty and seems woven into the fabric of a city that often sets social trends for the rest of the country.

But now restaurateur Danny Meyer is tipping the tables on gratuities, saying he will eliminate them at 13 of his restaurants and increase base wages while raising base prices.

Gratuities generate tens of billions of dollars a year for servers, and the practice is not expected to disappear overnight. Some restaurants have already discontinued tipping, while others ended discretionary tipping by including a base tip on the check.

Experts said such a move by a man like Meyer is sure to start the industry rethinking a practice that is as much a given as cutlery on the table.

“He’s taking the first, very visible step in going in that direction,” said Cydna Bougae of NY University’s Center for Hospitality and Tourism. Even so, she observed, “there’s going to be a lot of wait and see with the industry.”

Meyer has portrayed the new policy as part of a growing movement to assure a minimum hourly wage of $15. He said he expects workers to earn the same or more under the new policy.