Tipping Point

Are gratuities on the way out?

Industry-leading restaurateur Danny Meyer shook up American dining culture last year by eliminating tipping at his award-winning Manhattan restaurants. “Tipping has created an economic and emotional divide between kitchen workers and tipped workers, who over the past 30 years have seen their hourly pay go up by 350 percent in fine-dining restaurants,” says Meyer. By contrast, he adds, pay has only gone up by 35 percent for kitchen workers. 

It’s a chronic problem, particularly in New York State, where the Department of Labor prohibits front-of-house staff from sharing tips with kitchen staff. Meyer has implemented a so-called hospitality-included policy in some establishments — eliminating tipping and raising menu prices by roughly 20 percent — and has seen an increase in revenue and retention among kitchen workers. 

Wolfert’s Roost in Irvington has been the case study for Meyer’s philosophy in Westchester. “I am a believer in making sure my staff is appropriately compensated,” says chef and co-owner Eric Korn, who recently eliminated tipping at his establishment. “[It’s] about implementing employee pay that doesn’t rely on tipping for a living.” It’s too soon to tell, however, if this will become the industry standard, he adds. 

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