In the United States, most restaurant workers don’t earn a living wage at their jobs.
In “Forked: A New Standard for American Dining,” Saru Jarayaman writes that restaurant workers, who may earn as little as $2.13 an hour, become completely dependent upon tips, which fluctuate throughout the year, for their income.
This isn’t the case around the world. While tipping is nearly compulsory in the US, there are many countries around the world where you don’t have to leave a tip at all, if you don’t think your service was exemplary. That’s because restaurant employees are paid enough to live on through their salary. In Australia, for example, the average wage is $15 an hour, plus tips, reports PayScale.
This practice is slowly spreading to the US.
Restaurateur Danny Meyer announced that he’d ban tipping at his Manhattan restaurant Gramercy Tavern by the end of 2016. Chef Tom Colicchio ended tipping during lunch service at Craft, his flagship restaurant in New York City.
Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef and host of “Parts Unknown,” agrees with proponents of paying restaurant workers enough that tipping isn’t necessary.
“I am very, very much for all restaurant people making a living wage,” Bourdain told John Sellers at Thrillist when asked if he expected the no-tipping movement to become mainstream. “Because as it is now, most restaurant people cannot afford to eat in their own restaurants. It would be laughable. I never had health insurance for almost all of my career.”
“And you know, two weeks’ vacation was pretty much unthinkable — there wouldn’t be a job waiting for me when I came back. Holidays off, nuh-uh. Maternity leave, all of those things. I would very much like to see all of that. Is abolishing tipping a positive thing? A way forward? I don’t know.
“I think the fact that Danny Meyer chose to do it is an indicator of what the future is going to be. He tends to be way ahead on these things. I do have friends, however, who provide full benefits, very good salaries, and very good healthcare who really have a problem with it and say that it is not viable for their system.”
Bourdain, who recently released his newest book, “Appetites,” said he isn’t sure abolishing tipping is necessarily the solution. Restaurateur Eric Ripert, owner of New York’s renowned restaurant Le Bernadin, has said that he will keep tipping in his restaurant because his staff likes it. “The tipping policy is beneficial to everyone in my opinion, including waiters, customers, and owners,” he told The Daily Meal. “Only the government benefits from no tipping.”
“But something is needed,” Bourdain told Thrillist. “I mean, currently, the restaurant business is, generally speaking, not a good living, particularly for cooks.”