A New Yorker visits a no-tipping restaurant for the first time — and is convinced it’s better for employees and diners alike

Maialino Dining Room Guests
Tipping is off the table. Maialino, an Italian restaurant in New York City, is pictured. Liz Clayman

NEW YORK CITY — I’m a financial planner, not a foodie.

When dining with friends, I’m more likely to divvy up the check and tell everyone what they owe, than to gush over Greenmarket ingredients or exotic food preparation techniques. (I’m also not typically a fan of splitting the bill evenly, but that’s a topic for another time.)

That’s why, when the check arrived after a friend and I finished drinks and appetizers last night at Maialino, an Italian restaurant located in the Gramercy Park Hotel, I immediately noticed something different.

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At the bottom, there was only room for a signature. No line for tipping.

This is obviously not new, just new to me. Danny Meyer, founder of Union Square Hospitality Group which owns many high-end restaurants, including Maialino, eliminated tipping from his restaurants in 2015, as Business Insider’s Emily Cohn reported.

Very few restaurants have adopted a no-tipping policy, but the issue has been debated recently among NYC restaurateurs. Meyer is a vocal opponent of tipping, Cohn reported, calling tipping a massive hoax that was born out of slavery as a way to avoid paying workers. In no-tipping restaurants, employees receive higher wages, and menu prices tick up slightly to cover the added payroll expense.

Although my personal experience with tipping as compensation isn’t extensive, I did work as a hostess one summer during high school. The paychecks were measly but the overall pay — which included envelopes full of cash — wasn’t bad.

At the end of every shift, those of us who weren’t servers were expected to write our names and the hours we worked on a sheet of paper taped to the door of the manager’s office. The list was used to calculate our share of the “tip out” — a percentage of the tips earned by the servers that night. If you forgot to write your name on the list, you were out of luck. The couple of dollars per hour of base pay was all you would earn for that shift.

I’m not sure how it works at every restaurant, but after that experience, the concept of tipping at restaurants has never seemed to me like the best — or most fair — way to pay people.

Still, for many Americans, tipping is standard and familiar when dining out, and doing away with it isn’t easy. Business Insider’s Mary Hanbury reported that after initiating a no-tipping policy, some restaurants have since reinstated the practice to keep diners happy, adjusting menu prices back down as well. Even though the total spent is likely the same, it seems more expensive for some.

My friend and I had a different experience at Maialino. We ended the night feeling as though we had saved 20%, since we expected to leave a tip for the servers. Drinks and dinner in New York are always expensive, so the menu prices didn’t strike us as higher than normal. In fact, we arrived during happy hour, so the $US9 glass of prosecco I ordered was actually less than I would typically pay, even at a less-fancy restaurant or bar.

In our surprise at the bill, we asked our server a question he’s probably answered many times before: How does the no-tipping policy work out for you? He flashed a smile and told us he is very well compensated.

So, he was happy. And we were happy.

Seems to me that taking tipping off the table creates a better dining experience, for restaurant employees and their customers alike.