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NYC restaurateur eliminates no-tipping policy amid pandemic

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A New York City restaurateur who was one of the pioneers of the no-tipping model at his restaurants is now abandoning the practice. (cottonbro/Pexels)

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    TORONTO — A New York City restaurateur who was one of the pioneers of the no-tipping model at restaurants in the city is now abandoning the practice amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Danny Meyer announced on Monday that he is eliminating the no-tipping ‘Hospitality Included’ policy at all of his restaurants under the Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG).

    In a letter posted on Linkedin, titled "A Return to Tipping, But Let Them Be Shared," Meyer cited the uncertain future of restaurants and financial strains brought on by the novel coronavirus as the reason why he is reinstating tips at his establishments.

    "We’ve come to believe that it’s the inability to share tips that is the problem, not the tips themselves," Meyer wrote. "Our ultimate goal is for your tips to be shared among our entire team, so both kitchen and dining room teams can benefit when a guest has a great experience."

    Meyer first implemented his no-tipping policy back in 2015 to ensure both front and back of house employees received equal wages. However, with indoor dining postponed indefinitely in New York and the restaurants struggling to stay afloat on take-out orders, Meyer felt it was imperative to reinstate tips.

    "It’s against that precarious and unpredictable backdrop that we are concluding the chapter on Hospitality Included, and reopening with tips, all the while advocating for policy changes that will introduce much-needed equity into the compensation system," Meyer wrote.

    The practice will start this Thursday at Meyer’s first restaurant, Union Square Cafe, and will be adopted at other establishments such as Gramercy Tavern and Blue Smoke in the coming weeks as they reopen. Those USHG restaurants currently open for take-out and delivery including Daily Provisions will make the change effective immediately.

    Meyer closed all of his restaurants shortly before shutdown orders were issued in March. USHG laid off approximately 80 per cent of its workforce shortly there after.

    Meyer said reintroducing tipping is a way to get more money to his staff, some of whom are now returning to work after being unemployed for months.

    While tips will go to front of house staff, Meyer said he plans to share restaurant revenue with the kitchen staff, pledging an average 25 per cent pay increase for those workers.

    He added that he plans to persuade New York lawmakers to change the existing rules to allow for tips to be shared equally among kitchen and wait staff. Meyer said he is continuing to work with fair-wage groups to eliminate tipping in the future.

    "While we wait to reopen our dining rooms, we remain as committed as ever to seeing our employees fairly compensated and will continue to advocate for laws and business models that allow that to happen," Meyer wrote.

    "We can’t wait to see you, and in the meantime, wherever you dine, please tip as generously as you’re able."

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