Tipping the scale on a waiter’s salary

Danny Meyer's effect on a waiter's salaryThere has been a lot of discussion lately about tipping and a waiter's salary. And while the conversation has been centered upon the quagmire of, to tip or not to tip, that is not the question.

The most influential proponent of this no-tipping movement is Danny Meyer, a very successful and respected New York restaurateur. His recent actions could dramatically effect a waiter's salary in New York and throughout the country. According to Mr. Meyer, he is implementing this no-tip policy because, “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.” While it is unfair many key restaurant personal are subjected to very low wages, Mr. Meyer’s plan to correct this injustice is also unjust. Under Mr. Meyer’s new policy, menu prices will increase and all tipping will be eliminated in all of his restaurants. On his companies website, Mr. Meyer’s assured his valued customers that, “The total cost you pay to dine with us won’t differ much from what you pay now. But for our teams, the change will be significant. We will now have the ability to compensate all of our employees equitably, competitively, and professionally.” But, if the price guests pay to eat in Mr. Meyer’s restaurants will remain relatively unchanged, how can he significantly increase the wages of his “cooks, reservationists and dishwashers to name a few?” All logic points to a decrease in his server’s income. By eliminating tips, Mr. Meyer will now have the power to pay all of his employees what he, and not his guests, feels they deserve. While it is quite noble to aspire to provide all of your employees with a good, living wage, the responsibility to do so should be placed on the restaurant and not the server. In his companies thirty plus years, if Mr. Meyer wanted to significantly increase the wages of the employees critical to guest experience, he had the opportunity to compensated them all “equitably, competitively, and professionally.” So why is Mr. Meyer only now implementing a no tip strategy? Perhaps it is because New York Cites minimum wage for tipped workers will be increasing by fifty percent on December 31st. By implementing a no-tipping policy Mr. Meyer can avoid a increasing his waiter's salary because of a costly minimum wages increase (because his staff will certainly be paid more than the new $7.50 minimum wage.) More significantly, Mr. Meyer can accomplish this without increasing what guests pay to dine at his restaurants. Everyone wins, that is, except the waiter. Yes, they will also receive a higher hourly wage but, without guest’s gratuity, it seems that their actual income will have to decrease in order to pay everyone else more. Perhaps this may “work” at restaurants like Mr. Meyers where servers typically make a six-figure income. While some might find new jobs most will likely stay on and reliantly accept the pay cut in their waiter's salary. Someone needs to speak out for the server who will rarely speak out for themselves in circumstances like these. For some strange reason, there is a big disconnect between management and servers. They more often treated like outsiders or the enemy than valued employees. Of course I am speaking generally. In fact, I’d guess that Mr. Meyer’s servers are treated better than the average waiter because is able to hire the cream of the crop. And that make this no tip conversation partially frightening because, if this is happening at Mr. Meyer’s restaurants, what hope do other servers have? The only clout a server has, if you can call it that, is the ability to leave at a moments notice. And with industry turnover rates around one hundred and forty percent, which happens way too often. Restaurants need to better understand the real cost to high turn over and do whatever they can to make servers feel like valued members of the team. After all, a server is not only the face of a restaurant but its eyes, ears and mouth. Servers also have the ability effect a restaurants sales and make a guest’s experience unforgettable, both in the positive and negative sense. Remember, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

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