Recently, several restaurants have opted to get rid of the standard tipping service to waiters and waitresses. Instead, restaurant businesses will raise menu prices and escalate the employee pay rates to a set estimate of $15 to $20 an hour. Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, announced that no bills from any of his 13 restaurants will even hold that delicate line asking for gratuity. Meyer is best known for opening up Shake Shack, but he has long been one of the most prominent and influential restaurateurs in New York City. According to Slate, he is “the force behind celebrated establishments including Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe, Blue Smoke and the Modern at the Museum of Modern Art.”
It’s hard to say whether or not this decision is a step in the right direction. As someone who has worked in the hospitality field for more than eight years, I’ve reaped the benefits of living off of tips. However, as most servers can confirm, sometimes tips aren’t enough to cover individual living costs. Especially here in Florida where the “season” of flocking snowbirds drastically increases pay. This higher-earning status fluctuates throughout the rest of the year, giving servers a less-than-satisfactory need for stability. A set pay rate for servers ensures equal pay among staff while simultaneously increasing the incentive to motivate for better service. Most people tip arbitrarily to begin with, and according to research provided by Slate, “overall, the amount diners leave has very little to do with their level of satisfaction, but can be influenced by things like whether they’ve had a bit to drink or a waiter draws a smiley face on their check.” Is it really fair that we are paid based off how generous our customers are feeling that day? Of course not.
A rise in already price-heavy menus would seemingly turn away customers, but not when they learn they don’t have to leave extra to help support what could have been an unsatisfactory experience. I have heard time and time again, sometimes from servers themselves, that they don’t feel that they have to tip anyway. With people feeling this way, despite how satisfactory their dining experience may have been, it has become more difficult for servers to make a living based solely off of tips. America is literally the only country that asks their restaurant guests to leave extra money to their servers, a grossly unfair obligation. So for the question of whether or not tipping should continue to be a custom for restaurant diners, I side with those restaurant owners in New York.
This is the argument I have: Elementary school teachers in Orlando make an estimated $51,748 annually, according to Salary.com. This number is sadly below the national average. On the other hand, full-time servers at Disney World are known to make $40,000 to $70,000 a year (these numbers are based off of disboard.com, Career Bliss and personal accounts). Teaching is a crucial career, one that requires a college education and a seemingly vigorous amount of time and money, yet teachers are earning less than the 18-year-old putting food on your table.
I’m not knocking serving as a lesser way of earning a living by any stretch of the imagination — my own blood, sweat and tears in various dining establishments directly contradicts such a statement. My belief is simply that an even distribution of income could better be achieved by setting a status quo for server hourly pay. Eliminating the tipping strategy will benefit servers, guests and the overall business of running a restaurant.
Tiffani Daniel is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.