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Would "no tipping" work in the suburbs?

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The Bergen Record's Elisa Ung asks several NJ restaurant owners if the no tipping policies proposed by Danny Meyer and others would work in the suburban market. In NJ, many restaurants are BYO, and many are often empty during the week.


Many places already believe their better waiters make a bee-line to the city for better wages. "Lowering" their take home pay to better compensate line cooks would make the problem worse. But, paying a skilled professional cook $10 an hour is one step above criminal, in my opinion. If this guy or girl is any good, why aren't they seeking employment at higher wages? Or, moving out front?


One comment suggests paying the waitstaff a commission. Pay them a % of the bill and see how they upsell, manage service, etc



One owner of a higher-end Bergen County restaurant illustrated the pay inequity like this: a junior member of his kitchen staff is paid about $550 to $600 for a 50-hour week over six days, he said — while servers could make that same amount of money over two eight-hour shifts on Friday and Saturday, with their regular $3.50-an-hour wage and tips.



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Very interesting article -- thanks for posting it Paul.


From the customer standpoint -- it is perception. Now, If a restaurant owner really wants to know if it works, what his customers/clients think, etc. -- go find out. Ask, speak with them, talk to them. While administratively it could be a nightmare -- is this something you could try one night a week? One week a month? Perhaps not a large enough sampling.

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I had a conversation during the week with a waitstaff person, and asked her about this question (tips, salary, combo, etc)


I'd stay with the tips. I'm good, and they give me a good schedule. So I make a good living, and I can get time off. I don't know if I'd trust them with a salary.


But, I can understand why people want a salary. get on the bad side of a boss, and get bad hours, you can starve.

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I get that from the restaurants owner's perspective the current situation is a problem, and the "no tipping" scenario may not be feasible. Having the need and desire to retain key people is a major issue in every business. Here, the proposal is to re-vamp/re-engineer the pricing model and -- the response is -- that it will impact another group of employees, and the entire business model in general. OK, I get that too.


Are there other alternatives? How does the "pool" method work? I am not against the "no tipping" model, but I hear the concerns expressed in the article, and if restaurant owners don't think it will work and can cause harm, then they won't try it.

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I don't believe it will work...not in the suburbs. If I were to include the tip in my prices it would have to go something like this:


Venison - 52

Scallops 45


Filet 47


Veal chop 60


Unless every single restaurant was on board, nobody would come eat at my place, it would simply be too expensive. I put in a 30 percent increase, which is what Meyer is planning...

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I'd agree with that perspective, and add that many suburban restaurants have slow nights during the week. And sometimes a single turn on Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. That means fewer meals to produce that 30% bounty. Danny Meyer, etc, may enjoy 2 and 3 turns per night, five or six nights each week

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  • 3 weeks later...

I had lunch today at a Bensi restaurant in central NJ today. Bensi is a chain of franchised faux-Italian restaurants, in the fast casual space with Applebee's and similar places. (Not my choice, it was selected by somebody else.)


Separately, I asked the two waiters about the salary versus tips question. Neither expressed an interest in going off the tips system.


"It's good money"

"I have to cover my busboy, he works hard and I don't want to lose him"

"No way a salary would match what I make now"

"These people treat me very well"


It looked like there were just three waiters (and two bus staff) for 12 tables in the main room, a funeral repast of about 20 people in the next room, and a few people at the bar. Maybe 75-80 people over two hours. The bus/runners brought food to the bar for the barkeep to serve. These guys hustled, and the crowd looked like it would tip reasonably well. Several two and three tops of businessmen at tables, a group of 10 women with a Secret Santa, four or five reprobates who tipped well, several couples, etc.

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