Tip-Free Movement Still Going Strong

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The no-tip restaurant movement has not been without its setbacks. Several restaurants, such as New York City’s Fedora, San Francisco’s Bar Agricole and Trou Normand, and the seafood chain Joe’s Crab Shack, which tried out a tip-free policy at 18 Midwest restaurants, have ramped back their experiments and (to one degree or another) reinstated tipping, citing customer reluctance to embrace the trend.

“The system has to change at some point, but our customers and staff spoke very loudly,” Bob Merritt, the CEO of Joe’s Crab Shack’s parent company, Ignite Restaurant Group, said in May in a call with analysts, of the company’s decision to scale back its plan. “And a lot of them voted with their feet.”

Even restaurateur Danny Meyer, who has taken a lead role in the trend, recently told Grub Street that, while phasing out tipping in his restaurants is working well overall, it has been “challenging.”

But if the campaign to curtail tipping, which is intended to boost wages and benefits for restaurant workers like kitchen staffers, has slowed or even taken a step or two back, a recently survey of 503 U.S. restaurateurs, conducted by American Express Restaurant Trade Survey and cited by CNBC, indicates that it’s far from finished.

About 18 percent of restaurant professionals say their establishments have already adopted no-tip models of staff payment, and 29 percent indicate they intend to transition to being tip-free. And while 27 percent said they had no intention of jumping on the no-tip bandwagon, 17 percent said they would consider it if their competitors did. About 10 percent said they’re simply not sure what they’ll do about tipping in the future.

With support like that from the inside, it seems likely to reach a tipping point sooner or later and catch on with consumers, too.

Photo courtesy of iStock