Danny Meyer ditches tipping in his NYC restaurants: The UK should follow suit

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

More news this week on the hospitality industry’s tipping scandal – but this time it’s actually good. It seems NYC-restauranteur Danny Meyer (Shake ShackGramercy Tavern, Maialino, Union Square Cafe) agrees with Harden’s on this one as he’s banned the practice at his New York restaurants. We stated months ago, when this whole furore began, that it was time to ditch the tip. And let’s face it, if even the Americans (who love to flaunt their tipping largess) can cut the habit, surely we Brits can do the same?

In fact, when we wrote about ditching tipping in August we held an online poll, and 67% of people agree with us – it’s time to abolish the tip! The poll is still open so please vote.

Of course, a bit of an argument erupted about the pros and cons of doing away with the practice. Some felt that we were cruel to suggest a system that would deprive hard-working and underpaid waiters of much-needed income. Well, just look at the example Mr Meyer is setting in New York. Instead of supplementing his employees’ income with gratuity, he’s offering to pay them a fair wage from the outset. The initiative titled ‘Hospitality Included’ will also see an increase in prices and a shift towards a European-style system where menu prices will be all-inclusive. Roll-out across his 13-strong NYC restaurant empire begins in November.

Meyer is the first high-profile restaurateur to introduce such a sweeping strategy and the move has surprised many. However several US commentators, including writers for Forbes magazine, are squarely behind him, calling his “pioneering strategy” an “example of true leadership”.

Let’s hope Meyer plans to roll-out this new ethos to Shake Shack venues in Britain (currently in Covent Garden, Westfield Stratford and Cardiff, but expanding to London’s Midtown).

Screenshot 2015-10-19 12.22.49Mind you, such a move could be met with some resistance, as is evident by a sparky Twitter debate this week between the Guardian’s Marina O’Laughlin, chef Neil Rankin (of Smokehouse Islington and Chiswick) and others. The gist of which was the Guardian writer wants more transparency with every restaurant legally obliged to state its service charge policy. Followers suggested that the charge should be rolled into the price of the meal (à la Meyer) but Rankin raised concerns there would be no guarantee staff would receive the money. To which David Carnell replied: “umm – or you could roll it into the printed price and pay staff more?”. Our thoughts (and Meyer’s) exactly.

A letter, which arrived in Harden’s inbox last week from broadcaster and crime writer Nick Ross, sums up the situation rather pithily.

Nick said: “The UK has been in the shadow of the American “service charge” scam, which has gone from altruistic, to expected, to opt-out-if-you-dare. It is rarely clear whether cleaners, washers-up or other folk in the kitchen get a share and it is never clear why there shouldn’t also be a table charge, a chair charge, a lighting payment, a heating fee, a real estate rental supplement, a Council Tax contribution – or indeed a separate profits levy for the shareholders. Honest prices, honest food, honest service… let’s hope it now spreads here.”

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