Can Diners Change: Moving to a No-Tipping Culture

Last Fall, Danny Meyer’s high-endNYC restaurant The Modern eliminated tipping entirely for servers, coat checks, and anyone else. This “hospitality included” (or HI) system takes the historical average tip revenue and rolls that into menu prices.

A key reason was to make compensation more fair between servers— who usually enjoy all the tip revenue— and other restaurant staff like chefs, who usually get paid far less for equally-demanding work.

Early feedback was positive, andMeyer just rolled out HI to a second restaurant, Maialino. Other restaurants across the country are experimenting with HI too. One Brooklyn group even made a logo to hang in restaurant windows (shown here).

But as reported inThe Atlantic, adoption of HI dining has been halting.

And in a survey of 3,000 people by Horizon Media, most Americans say they’re not ready to move to a gratuity-included world. Tipping is an irrational and inconsistent habit around the world: why tip servers but not chefs, or bell hops but not receptionists? Why don’t we tip our dental hygienist? However, once tipping becomes a cultural habit, it’s exceedingly hard to get rid of.

Shopper behavior is often irrational. And changing cultural habits is a daunting task. But Disruptive change like this has happened in the past: price tags, credit cards, bar codes, self-checkout, and now mobile pay have all radically changed shopping habits.

Good luck, Danny Meyer.

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