Austin restaurateurs respond to Danny Meyer abolishing tipping at USHG

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"Welcome to the future of the restaurant business," New Waterloo Partner Jesse Herman said when the news broke about Danny Meyer abolishing tipping.
"Welcome to the future of the restaurant business," New Waterloo Partner Jesse Herman said when the news broke about Danny Meyer abolishing tipping.

“Welcome to the future of the restaurant business,” New Waterloo Partner Jesse Herman said when the news broke about Danny Meyer abolishing tipping.

Danny Meyer of Union Square Hospitality Group in New York City sent shockwaves through the restaurant world yesterday when he announced his restaurants would soon abolish tipping.

The national website Eater had a massive piece on the sea change that Meyer could likely bring to the dining world at large. Read that detailed piece that will answer all your questions here.

Meyer, whose group owns Grammercy Tavern and the Modern, among others, said the move was intended to help raise the pay of kitchen staff and eliminate the awkward dynamics between server and guest. USHG will raise prices (probably about 25 percent) with what they call Hospitality Included. There will not be a line for tipping on the receipt. The change should go into effect at USHG’s 13 restaurants by the end of next year. The Modern will be the first to enact the change, and the “average hourly wage for kitchen employees at the restaurant is expected to rise to $15.25 from $11.75,” according to the New York Times.

Given Meyer’s image as a hospitality leader, many believe the change will trickle down throughout the restaurant world. I asked a few Austin chefs and restaurateurs for their take on the change.

Todd Duplechan, chef-owner of Lenoir:
“Danny Meyer is an industry leader, and a very smart guy in general. As an alum of USHG, I am a firm believer in his business style and am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that his “Hospitality Included” roll out is well researched and will ultimately cultivate a better work environment in our industry. I mean, cooks have been vastly underpaid forever, and if this can change that, my interest is piqued.”

Jesse Herman, partner in New Waterloo, which operates Sway, La Condesa, Hotlel Ella and South Congress Hotel:
“What Danny Meyer is doing is the future of dining. He’s not the first to adapt this model and he won’t be the last. Different restaurants will have to cope in different ways and there are different methods to address the underlying issue, but in the future I expect the traditional gratuity to disappear. Having either a consistent service charge or eliminating gratuity via higher pricing will help restaurants operate more efficiently and help to close the gap between front-of-house and back-of-house pay, BOH pay being a major issue in the restaurant business. A $15 minimum wage for fast food restaurants is more than most skilled line cooks in Austin make and that needs to be adjusted.”

As an aside, if you want to read one of the best books out there about hospitality, check out Meyer’s “Setting the Table.”


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