Are Americans ready to give up tipping at restaurants?

Posted in Sexual Harassment,Sexual Harassment by Industry on May 13, 2016

We have previously written about the pervasive problem of sexual harassment in the restaurant industry. There are many reasons why servers and other workers are more likely to face sexual harassment, but tipping culture has been singled out as a problem that could be immediately addressed.

Tipping often creates an unequal power dynamic that compels servers to put up with harassment and other rude behavior. In most states, tipped workers are paid a lower hourly wage (sometimes a lot lower), with the idea that tips would bring them up to minimum wage. This results in unpredictable wages and other stressors.

California is one of only about six states to mandate that tipped workers be paid the state minimum wage (hourly) before tips are factored in. Since the laws don’t seem to be changing in many other states, some restaurants are taking it upon themselves to do away with the custom of tipping. They instead advertise that prices will be a little higher in order to give workers more money directly.

The results have been mixed, according to news sources. In New York, for example, upscale restaurants have received positive feedback and increases in business. But the national chain Joe’s Crab Shack has said its experimental no-tipping policy has hurt business. The company has 130 locations around the country, and launched a no-tipping policy in about 18 restaurants. Recently, it announced that it would do away with that policy at all but four locations.

The company has said that customers didn’t believe that higher prices would actually translate to higher wages for servers. Customers also said that they wanted to keep tipping in place as a way to inspire good service (which some experts feel is not actually very effective).

In addition to reducing sexual harassment, there are many other good reasons to get rid of tipping. Unfortunately, it is an engrained custom that may not be changed easily. Hopefully, the trend will continue among restaurants around the country.