Restaurant Riki, a New York sushi place, recently asked its customers to stop leaving tips. It’s joining several other restaurants in the city and nationwide that have recently started no-tipping policies and raised menu prices to pay their waitstaff a higher base wage.
Owner Riki Hashizume says he decided to ban tips to conform with Japanese custom. “I came from Japan, and I have some ideas and I have some points of view,” Mr. Hashizume told The New York Observer. “Usually we don’t take tips in Japan.”
Sushi Yasuda, another sushi restaurant just a few blocks away from Restaurant Riki, made headlines when it banned tips last year. Several other famous eateries, including the French Laundry in Yountville, California and Alinea in Chicago have dropped tipping in favor of higher menu prices, in what food industry experts are dubbing a national “no-tipping” movement.
Abolishing tips is a rather bold and controversial business decision. Waitstaff may—or may not—appreciate receiving a higher flat wage in exchange for few or no tips. A restaurant owner must feel confident that customers will gladly accept higher menu prices (15 percent higher, in Riki’s case) in exchange for not having to leave their server a tip after the meal. Some customers may feel they receive better service when the waitstaff knows tips are discretionary.
Restaurants that have adopted no-tipping policies, however, say that customers eventually come to appreciate not having to worry about tipping after meals. It also helps equalize pay among restaurant employees at a time when there’s growing debate over what portion of tips various members of the waitstaff—whether the server, the host, the bussers, or the cooks—should receive.
Baristas at Starbucks, for example, sued the coffee giant over its tip-sharing policy, saying they weren’t receiving their fair share.
Scott Rosenberg, owner of Sushi Yasuda, told MarketWatch that while it’s taken customers a while to warm up to his restaurant’s no-tipping policy, it seems to be paying off. Customers prefer not feeling like they have to “grade” their servers after every meal and do the math to determine how much tip to leaver. “It just seems like a more transparent way of operating a restaurant,” Rosenberg says.
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