NYC sushi restaurant reignites tipping debate

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      To tip or not to tip? And if so, then how much? A New York-based Japanese restaurant recently reignited the debate on whether tips should be part of a server’s salary by eliminating them from their restaurant.

      Sushi Yasuda, a restaurant that has operated for over a decade in Manhattan, recently updated the fine print at the bottom of bills to read: “Following the custom in Japan, Sushi Yasuda’s service staff are fully compensated by their salary. Therefore gratuities are not accepted.”

      Instead, all employees at the restaurant receive a decent salary, vacation days, sick days, and a benefits package that includes health insurance.

      “Your service staff— for those who want to pursue that as an ongoing career—they have stability. They become part of a family, and that’s special,” Sushi Yasuda co-founder Scott Rosenberg told The Price Hike. “You have to be all in if you’re a salaried professional. It also attracts people who are more serious about being a part of that craft and being a part of that journey”

      Eliminating tips has not only benefited Sushi Yasuda’s staff, but customers as well. According to Rosenberg, customers feel relief from the pressures of tipping once the bill arrives.

      “The diner doesn’t [have to] think about how much to leave and make calculations [after] a contemplative and special meal,” he said to ABC News. “We’re really sort of just staying connected to that classical approach [of fine Japanese dining].”

      Japan isn’t the only country where restaurant tipping isn’t customary. Restaurant servers in China, Vietnam, and the Philippines don’t expect tips, and in many European countries, a service charge is often automatically included on the bill.

      However, in North America, not only is tipping common practice—it’s expected. So will other restaurants in the U.S. and Canada follow Sushi Yasuda’s lead by eliminating tips and increasing staff wages and benefits? 

      Comments

      8 Comments

      A. MacInnis

      Jun 12, 2013 at 2:00am

      As a former ESL teacher, who taught primarily students from overseas, I can attest that not only Japanese and Chinese, but Koreans too - missed in the above article - generally regard tipping as an onerous, unfamiliar, almost offensive custom, which they associate with phenomenon like panhandling (which is also rare in affluent Asian countries; I spent three years in Japan, and, despite a large and visible homeless population, was spare-changed exactly once during that time). The general feeling seems to run like so: why should they be expected to give extra money on top of the cost of something to a stranger, when clearly it is the employers' job to make sure their staff are fairly recompensed? Why should they have to pay extra for a server to do his or her frickin' JOB?

      There is some logic to this, but all the same, tipping IS a western custom; I personally used to encourage my students to simply accept it and assimilate to it, while they were here, lest they be thought of as cheapskates, attract bad service, or encourage negative stereotypes about their ethnic group ("_____ are shitty tippers;" I'm sure there are various waiters and cabbies and such who will happily fill in that blank along ethnic lines). Still - as the population changes, I imagine this issue will be raised more frequently. There are doubtlessly many communities where tipping is already rare - my Korean students, for instance, would often explain that they never felt they had to tip when we went to Korean restaurants, and though I confess I never asked the staff at those restaurants if they agreed with this sentiment, it makes sense that they might...

      All the same, the idea that restaurants are going to suddenly start increasing staff wages and benefits to be more Asian-friendly is a little unlikely... restaurant owners might seize on a story like this to ban tipping and attract more customers, but I very much doubt they'll do the right thing and also raise wages...

      JMC

      Jun 12, 2013 at 10:21am

      Unfortunately the ability to keep wages low for servers in the West - has allowed tipping to become part of our culture. I do not beleive that tipping should be be mandatory. Increase salaries and pass those increases on to the customer through price increases and eliminate tipping. Tipping to me is for the level of service I am provided with. It is not for the actual meal I get - as it is not the servers fault. If my server is attentive, polite, engaging and quick - I will tip generously. If my food is bad - I will ask them to deal with the staff who cooked it - how they do that also influences the tip. What bothers me - is that servers in restaurants that serve expensive meals automatically get more because the meal cost more - not because the service is any better.

      Gina Williams

      Jun 12, 2013 at 11:08am

      I think tipping should be a choice for good service if service is not so good then I feel the tip should be not so good. I hate it when restaurants add the tip into the bill so won't return or have them make an adjustment to the bill before paying. I live in Canada and I would be really surprised if servers got paid a decent wage and the bosses not expect a tip to be part of their wages.

      Terminalcitygirl

      Jun 12, 2013 at 12:14pm

      This article makes infinite sense and I would love to see tipping banned in exchange for fair compensation and benefits for folks in the restaurant industry. We don't tip other service providers for doing their job. It's a ridiculous practice. If the serve is good, tell your server and if its bad, tell the manager.

      Myrna Loy

      Jun 12, 2013 at 1:12pm

      I think it's is a great idea. Why not promote stable income and medical benefits for the betterment of the industry as a whole? Not to mention the fact that it would mean more taxes dollars for government, which would support local and national infrastructure. The only problem I see, is perhaps some griping about having to claim all income at tax time since it’s not just extra cash changing hands.

      cathy

      Jun 12, 2013 at 4:01pm

      Personally i hate tipping in restaurants as it seems degrading to servers etc.
      It is some kind of throw back to the class system.

      Tipping makes me uncomfortable and would much rather have the restaurant staff receive decent wages and benefits.
      I've actually stayed home to avoid the whole tipping "scene" sometimes i just can't stand it.

      The only place i am happy to tip is at hotel's.
      I always leave $5-$10 for the maids everyday.
      Why?
      They are usually non-union and working for low pay especially in the States where the hourly rate can be as low as $3 an hour!

      The work is done by mostly immigrant/minority women who work hard supporting their families.
      These tips mean a lot to them.

      I do not need the phoney smiles or subservient attitude to give a tip. Most of the time i never see the maids but every so often they see me leaving the room and the big smile i get is amazing, they know I value and appreciate their work.
      Their smile and my tip seem equal somehow.

      John Wilson

      Jun 15, 2013 at 4:47pm

      They even put out a tip jar in Starbucks. There staff all have medical, dental etc.

      Personally I prefer to eat at places where the Tip is not required. In Taiwan tipping extra is not required.

      Charge a little more treat your staff better and your business will do better.

      Making staff beg and count on tips to cover your low salary never works.

      Reservoir Dogs

      Jun 16, 2013 at 10:32pm

      In spite of the fact that I do tip barbers, taxi drivers, at restaurants, and what have you, the whole concept or custom of tipping makes as much sense as?well, it doesn't make sense. Frankly, when I do tip, more times than not I'm tipping out of pity, yet I'm conflicted on the matter; if you can't survive on however much compensation you receive, quit cutting hair, driving taxis, or waiting tables? Nonetheless, I would love to live in a world where everybody's compensated fairly for their precious time and tedious labor. It's extremely saddening that so many people are exploited in the modern world. One person being exploited is one person too many! And somehow the world never stops turning. Our primary mode of interaction to achieve collective action?that being business?desperately needs to be addressed as soon as possible. We need to understand that in today's world we're absolutely interdependent, and the sooner we start working with one another for one another, instead of working with one another against one another, competing over breadcrumbs, the better off we'll be. But I'm just a dreamer. Rant over.