If you like a bit of historical and legal context with your tip-debate reading, then Tien Nguyen’s FAQ is a good place to start. The food writer and lawyer’s piece explores the custom’s origins in Tudor England, the legal complexities of tip-pooling and America’s own historically tempestuous relationship with gratuities. Did you know tipping was actually banned in several states in the early 1900s?
While all of these state bans would be repealed, many industry stalwarts now believe the rise of the super minimum wage has made the traditional restaurant gratuity model untenable. You can add Kleiman to that growing list of industry tipping skeptics.
Having run Angeli Caffe for 27 years, the Good Eats’ host now believes tipping is “bad for restaurants” because it hides the true cost of dining out and simply will not add up in the face of continued wage hikes.
For many reasons, we seem unable to accept that the bill at the end of the meal reflects the true and total cost of our dining experience – which includes not only the rising cost of labor, but the rising costs of food and Los Angeles real estate. Restaurant pricing should include everything the operator needs to operate, without relying on an unpredictable contribution by the diner. The model is called all-inclusive, or “all-in,” pricing.
Although Kleiman seems sure an all-inclusive model will be the best method moving forward, there’s a well-founded fear that diners will be put off by higher prices – a fear she references before advocating for a slightly different form of higher menu prices. It is yet to be seen whether consumers, a majority of whom still favor tipping, will have a nuanced understanding of the difference betw_een slightly higher menu prices with tipping allowed and the potential sticker-shock of the all-in model.
With this reality in mind a number of California restaurateurs are currently experimenting with surcharges, heart-of-house tipping and service charges, which the paper focuses on in their third article of the series. And while the L.A. Times stopped short of having its famed critic Jonathon Gold endorse the elimination of tipping, as the San Francisco Chronicle did with Michael Bauer, it seems the narrative in opposition to tipping continues to grow in stature.