Imagine two restaurants right next door to each other. They are identical in every way except one – one is traditional in that you are expected to tip the waitstaff; the other adds 20% to the price of the food and you are not expected to tip.
To which establishment would you choose to give your business?
Tipping is discussed quite a bit on travel forums (not to mention on this blog), but I present this hypothetical because of this article on CNN Money. The article looks at three restaurant owners who are attempting to eliminate tipping and instead offer their waitstaff standard wages.
Even more to the point in my opinion, however, was this explanation for the decision by one of the owners, Bob Conway:
We are in a competitive industry and we thought this could be a point of differentiation and originality. The customer won’t feel the whammy at the end of their experience.
Put the feelings of the customer first? In an industry where customers have nearly limitless options, including the option not to eat out at all? Who would have thought?
I guess Bob Conway, Thad Vogler, and Jay Porter … that’s who.
Personally, given the hypothetical above, I would chose the tipless restaurant every time. Why? Precisely for the reason Mr. Conway states – I enjoy eating out, but I don’t enjoy the awkwardness at the end of the meal – no matter how minor it might be. I’d rather you just hand me a check, I hand you a credit card, you run it, I sign for it and that’s that.
But the comments section following the article reveals why changing the culture might be next to impossible.
automatically building the tip into the prices can easily encourage mediocre to bad service, and I’d hope that there are checks in place to prevent that from happening. If I give business to an establishment that does automatic price adjustments to prevent tipping, and I complain about bad service, and nothing is done about it, you can bet that will be the last time I’ll bother going there. ~Natch2
We, the public, are already crushed by machines and technology in an unfair system of ownership by the wealthy. … Any place that starts forcing charges on me and taking away my freedom to chose will be shunned by me. ~clearmist
I will avoid any restaurant that has no tipping and increase their prices to compensate. I tip at least 20% for good service and I expect it to be good. ~Eugene Powers
Then again, there are more than a few commenters who agree with my way of thinking as well.
Europe has been doing it this way for years. The servers make a decent wage; all the staff get a fair share; the management doesn’t look like Scrooge, and the customers do not have to add on at the end. ~Mjkelldog
i think it is a great idea!!! … Pay a fair price for food & workers get a fair wage. If you have a bad experience, rather than having to decide “Hmmmmm, he/she is only getting 10%”, you can hold you management responsible for their employee’s actions through complaints just like in every other industry. ~Johnm000
Hmmm, based on these comments it wouldn’t surprise me to see a future in which both tipping and no-tipping restaurants exist – each with their own customer bases. “No tipping” sounds too negative though, and a little bit cheap. Perhaps they should call themselves “all inclusive” or “professional service” restaurants.
I’m liking where this is headed. Restaurants that build the full cost of the dining experience into the menu price would put out “all inclusive” signs to attract customers who prefer this approach. Eventually one could envision restaurants around the globe doing the same – maybe a symbol could be designed to overcome language barriers. A full-fledged two model restaurant system is born.
And never again would travelers be forced to contemplate, “What’s the tipping custom when visiting XYZ?” (although, for those who prefer to tip, I’m sure there will still be plenty of discussions surrounding the appropriate amount to tip in XYZ).
Back to the hypothetical question at the start of this post. Which restaurant would you patronize? And what do you think the standard term/symbol should be for no-tipping restaurants?
Read the CNN Money article in its entirety: Could this mean the end of tipping?