Celebrity restaurateur Danny Meyer started implementing his no-tipping policy at The Modern in Midtown on Thursday. To make up for the lost tip money, Meyer increased menu prices. The change, meant to stabilize staffers' pay, prompted a flood of applications to the Museum of Modern Art eatery, and is being closely watched across the restaurant industry. The New York Post visited The Modern on day one of the gambit, and found at least two tables who couldn't resist the conditioning of a lifetime of ordering from waitstaff making less than minimum wage.
"We left a [$20] tip," Monique Hohmann told the tabloid.
"We forced her," Hohmann said of her and her husband's server. "We left it and ran. [The server] was very polite and did not want to accept it, but we felt she had made such beautiful wine choices and she needed to be rewarded for her extra effort."
Diner Shawn from California said he tipped his usual 30 percent because he was suspicious of Meyer's worker-friendly claims.
"I'm a little opposed because I don't really know what's going into the hands of the staff," he said.
Meyer plans to enact the no-tipping policy at his 12 other restaurants by the end of next year.
"It's troubled me for 21 years that the tipping system is antithetical to creating a real profession for people who takes their jobs seriously," he told The Telegraph. "You don't tip your doctor if they do a good job. You don't tip the airline pilot if the plane lands. It's actually a demeaning practice."
Meyer plans to offer an online meal-rating system as a way of replacing the feedback of tipping and helping to assess who deserves a raise or promotion.
Other tables the Post spoke to on day zero of the new scheme were relieved to not have to tip—three are quoted, compared to the two who insisted on leaving extra.
As Eater first outlined, nearly half of the items on The Modern's Bar Room menu are actually reduced in price under the new system, including the white truffle risotto, which is down $10 to $40. The average price increase, considering all the items is 6.3 percent, according to the blog. The tasting menu in the restaurant's main Dining Room is up to $182 from $138, and was raised $10 earlier in the summer. Factored together, the increases total 20 percent.
A recent Quinnipiac poll shows that, despite their general willingness to pay more to support a wage increase for fast-food workers, New Yorkers love tipping and are against doing away with it to support better wages at sit-down eateries.
Anthony Bourdain told us he thinks Meyer's anti-tipping policy is "the way of the future." Jerry Seinfeld, whose last non-comedy job was as a waiter, opposes the change for selfish reasons. He told Grub Street:
Comedy-wise, I really like tipping. I like the arguments. I like the weirdness. I like the whispering — there's no tipping without whispering. How much should I give? It's always done like it's illegal for some reason ... like if you tip a car valet or a bellman it all has to be done like we don't want to get caught doing this.
Tips that are left at The Modern now have to be divvied up and doled out to eligible employees, according to the New York Times. Union Square Hospitality Group executive Erin Moran told the paper before the launch that, yes, the company is really against tipping.
"We really want to strongly dissuade guests from leaving any extra gratuity," she said. "We really hope that we don’t have to deal with it."