Mass. Restaurant Association President Says Eliminating Tipping May Diminish Service

But with Danny Meyer doing away with gratuity at his 13 destination restaurants in New York City, Bob Luz is paying attention.

Tipping Massachusetts

Server picking up a cash tip photo via Shutterstock

Earlier this week, Union Square Hospitality Group CEO Danny Meyer announced that over the next year, his 13 New York City restaurants will all do away with the practice of tipping. Beginning in late November at The Modern, a Michelin-starred restaurant inside the Museum of Modern Art, menu prices will reflect this shift, with costs rising to a level that “won’t differ much from what you pay now,” Meyer wrote in an open letter about the decision. Iconic spots like Gramercy Tavern and Blue Smoke at Jazz Standard will follow.

Today, Bob Luz, the president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association released a statement in response:

“Eliminating tipping in some restaurants by adding an administrative charge or raising menu prices by 20% or more has been a slowly developing practice that is being driven by union activists and government regulation far more than servers and bartenders believing they are under compensated.  The results so far have been very mixed in many cases as service levels guests received have dropped and high performing employees have moved to competing restaurants that have not changed the service model. 

Tip wage employees generally accept those positions over others because they have a drive to be compensated in exchange for creating impeccable dining experiences for their guests. This is one of the factors that our country was established on—work hard and be rewarded. That being said, when someone who has the reputation for superior service and the highest quality of dining experiences like Danny Meyer makes this move, the results certainly bear watching.

By eliminating tipping and raising the cost of food at his restaurants, Meyer writes that now, his company will be rewarding outstanding service—dishwashers, cooks, and hosts included.

We believe hospitality is a team sport, and that it takes an entire team to provide you with the experiences you have come to expect from us,” he wrote. “We will now have the ability to compensate all of our employees equitably, competitively, and professionally. And by eliminating tipping, our employees who want to grow financially and professionally will be able to earn those opportunities based on the merit of their work.”

Chef/owner Michael Serpa introduced automatic gratuity at new his Back Bay restaurant, Select Oyster Bar. While the passionate first venture from the skilled seafood chef set a high bar when it opened this spring, it is only one restaurant in Boston’s expansive landscape. Meyer represents some of New York City’s top dining destinations, and Luz knows it.

Meyer is hosting a “town hall” meeting for guests next month, and it will be interesting to see how this move is received. It’s a big deal.