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ANN HUI

Did you get great service? Don’t leave a tip Add to ...

The days of whipping out a cellphone calculator or scribbling long division on a napkin when the bill arrives may soon be over.

The New York restaurant, Sushi Yasuda, recently announced that it has implemented a no-tipping policy. Instead, the restaurant increased its prices by 15 per cent across the menu, and servers paid a proper salary and benefits based on that.

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So will other restaurants follow suit? Here’s hoping.

The custom of tipping has long been questioned by both restaurants and customers.

For servers, the fact that North American employers pay their waitstaff minimum wage (or often below minimum wage, in the U.S.), means that, despite grueling work, waiters often live on tips alone. As a former restaurant server who relied on tips to pay for books throughout university, I can attest to the fact that budgeting is a challenge with such an unpredictable source of income. In contrast, European servers are paid a living wage (like in the system that Sushi Yasuda is introducing), which means they’re able to earn a decent income without having to rely on tips to top up meagre wages.

And for customers, tipping varies so widely across cultures, that customs can sometimes seem completely baffling. In Japan, for example, customers are not expected to leave a tip despite often exceptional service, while Canadians feel compelled to leave a minimum of 15 per cent even for inadequate service.

The fact that we tend to tip based on the amount of the cheque – and not on the level of service received – can also seem absurd. In a recent TEDx lecture called “Rethink Tipping”, University of Guelph professor and former restaurauteur Bruce McAdams uses the example of wine-ordering to illustrate how this makes “absolutely no economic sense.” A table that orders a $100 bottle of wine will leave double the tip of someone who only orders a $50 bottle, he said, even though both tables have received the exact same service – a waiter opening the bottle of wine and pouring it.

Tipping can even lead to discrimination, Mr. McAdams argues, with servers sometimes catering to certain customers based on ethnic or cultural stereotypes.

But will customers be willing to pay more for their food to make up for not tipping? Sushi Yasuda’s co-owner Scott Rosenberg said in his case, the answer seems to be yes. He said that the new policy (and prices) has not affected the restaurant’s volume of customers, and that the resulting bill often ends up being about the same anyway.

“What our customers find is that they’re essentially paying the same, maybe a touch less, because we’re a little more conservative about how we adjusted our prices,” he told The Price Hike.

And how great would it be not to have to do the math anymore?

Follow on Twitter: @annhui

 

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