When Danny Meyer revealed that he’d be eliminating tipping at all of his restaurants within Union Square Hospitality Group — including Gramercy Tavern, The Modern and Maialino — the restaurant industry gave a collective round of applause by way of blog posts and tweets (search #HospitalityIncluded to follow the movement). On Wednesday, Gabriel Stulman said that he’d also be doing away with the gratuity line-item at his West Village date-night staple Fedora. And earlier in the week, Andrew Tarlow, owner of Diner and Marlow & Sons, jumped on the bandwagon. The idea is widely supported because it means restauranteurs will be paying their servers — and chefs — a better wage. But for patrons who pride themselves on hefty tips, the elimination could feel more confusing than communal.
“It’s just a part of our culture, and it’s going to be very hard to give it up,” said Patricia Fitzpatrick, president of the Etiquette School of New York, which she founded in 2003. “We like to reward the person who’s in front of us, smiling, who gets our order right and takes care of all our needs. We like to appreciate that person, and we show our appreciation by giving them gratuity.”
Though Fitzpatrick agrees with improving the wages of restaurant workers, and she generally thinks that tipping at the above eateries is no longer necessary, she worries that without it, “it’s not personal. I do think that you are going to get better service when [a waiter] sees that you personally are giving them something and are acknowledging their contribution.”
She adds, “The greater you show your appreciation, the greater the likelihood you will receive excellent service with them in the future. It’s only human nature to want to do more for others when they do something for us.”
No doubt with a better annual salary, a waitstaff will still be inclined to do their job well. If service is bad at restaurants that accept tipping, Fitzpatrick recommends leaving a 10 percent tip and speaking with the manager. “And who’s to say you can’t [tip]?” she says. “If you’re happy and you go to that restaurant a lot, I certainly would. [Like how] people who go to their [favorite] restaurants give the maître d’ 10 or 20 dollars folded-in-hand every time they go there.”
Of course, whether or not you decide to tip, manners are always important. “A ‘thank-you’ is also expected, with or without an additional gratuity, as a way of personally acknowledging service workers as people,” says Fitzpatrick.