Shake Shack founder and acclaimed restaurateur, Danny Meyer, announced he was eliminating tipping at the twelve restaurants contained within his Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG).
In an announcement posted on the USHG website, Meyers explained that tipping had become a major obstacle in helping the company’s employees build meaningful careers:
We believe hospitality is a team sport, and that it takes an entire team to provide you with the experiences you have come to expect from us. Unfortunately, many of our colleagues – our cooks, reservationists, and dishwashers, to name a few – aren’t able to share in our guests’ generosity, even though their contributions are just as vital to the outcome of your experience at one of our restaurants.
The move has received praise from food critics, media outlets, chefs and restaurateurs alike as many believe only someone with Meyer’s popularity and reputation could successfully take on a cultural norm like tipping. The New York Post even went so far as to run the following headline: “Why Danny Meyer’s no-tip policy will save American dining.”
Meanwhile, the popular foodie website, Eater, published a number of reactions from industry insiders. Here are some of the highlights:
I think this is a noble and ground-breaking move. As a line cook-turned-CEO, I see so much value in bridging the financial gap between the front and back of house staff with a wage system that lives up to the culture of hospitality. –North Carolina restaurateur, Ashley Christensen
Evolution is inevitable, and Danny is certainly a pioneer in this endeavor. The industry will be watching closely. –Restaurateur, Ralph Brennan
There is no doubt that as an industry, we are facing challenges, none of them greater than staffing quality people in the kitchen as well as our service teams. I think what they are saying here can potentially help fix a very broken system. –Philadelphia restaurateur, Eli Kulp
He is a genius and always ahead of the curve. This is the future of dining in the U.S., and all of the players on the team will find a more fair share of sales in their pockets at the end of the week. – Chef Mario Batali
Still, in the same week as Meyer’s announcement, two Bay Area restaurants that were early eliminators of tips shared they will move back to a tipping model, having had trouble retaining front of the house staff.
While there seems to be plenty of interest within the industry in finding a better way to distribute pay between front and back of house workers, only time will tell whether the Danny Meyer announcement marks the tipping point or just another early adopter come too soon.