A good starting point: the New York Times Sunday Magazine featured the Linkery and our philosophy on restaurant tipping in its October 12th, 2008 issue (The Food Issue).
Frequently Asked Questions About Not Accepting Tips And Charging For Table Service
Instead of working for tips, we address the costs of providing table service by including an 18% charge for dining-in guests. We do not accept any gratuities.
(If you’d really like to express extra gratitude at the end of your meal, you can leave cash behind as a donation to our charity of the month, which is listed on the menu.)
We believe that charging for service and declining tips is an appropriate option for professionals in any industry including hospitality.
Our service revenue, like all our revenue, is distributed among everyone who works here (which is not allowed with tips). This is us living the truth that everybody here is fully responsible for the quality of your experience, and that we all work together to give you the best food, drink and service possible.
Why do you have this policy?
Basically, we found we didn’t like working for tips, for a few reasons. So we stopped accepting tips and started to charging for table service. Now we are free operate as a team to do the best job we can in providing food and service.
What exactly do tips have to do with table service?
Tips are used in the restaurant industry to cover the cost of table service.
Did you start this because some people weren’t tipping well?
Actually, that was never a problem. Although individual guests may tip differently, the overall tips in a restaurant are very stable as a percentage of sales. Instead we started this more so that we could relegate money to the background and focus on what matters, food and service.
Does any other sit-down restaurant do this?
We know of no other table-service restaurant which does not accept tips. According to their on-line menu, La Gran Tapa in San Diego has adopted the same service policy as the Linkery (but half a percentage point cheaper!).
A few other restaurants charge for table service and also accept additional tips, including Chez Panisse. Admittedly, we don&’t want to limit ourselves by aspiring to be only as good as that place, but it’s respectable company.
Seriously, seeing that Alice Waters charges for table service suggests to us that perhaps it helps a restaurant be excellent. Given our goal of developing a world-class neighborhood restaurant, we are happy to follow.
Aren’t tips my only way to insure that I get prompt service?
Actually, it turns out that tips and quality of service are usually very loosely correlated, at most (see “Tip Levels and Service: An Update, Extension and Reconciliation” by Michael Lynn of Cornell University, 2003, and “Incentives and Service Quality in the Restaurant Industry: The Tipping Service Puzzle”, by Ofer H. Azar of Ben-Gurion University, 2007). People generally just tip what they tip. It’s a pretty unusual occasion where quality of service affects the amount of the tip much, and as a result it’s even rarer when a prospective tip affects the quality of service.
Interestingly, however, female servers drawing smiley faces on the check has been shown to increase tips by 18% (Rind & Bordia 1996).
Anecdotally, our experience agrees with the research. Since we switched to this policy, feedback from our guests regarding our service improved significantly, meaning that by not accepting tips we were able to improve our service.
What if my service is bad? Why should I have to pay 18% in that case?
As with anything we do here, food or service, we ask that you bring to our attention any errors that affect the quality of your experience. We’ll do our best to correct them, and, when appropriate, adjust the bill accordingly.
How does this benefit me?
It’s a better way of running our restaurant. Running our restaurant better means that we are better able to provide great food and great service at a moderate cost. (In other words, we don’t have to raise our prices to cover inefficiencies in our operation.) That’s good for everyone.
What if my service is great? I’d like to reward that.
We find that doing a great job is its own reward.
But if you’d like to recognize us, the best thing is to let everyone know both in the restaurant and out. Tell your friends, post it on your website, or wear a sandwich board at work that says The Linkery Rocks!
If a particular person or people is doing a great job, tell us. Tell the bartender, or send an email to Jay. We’ll all get to hear about it, and well appreciate the great work of our colleagues.
Also, we encourage guests who want to express gratitude to leave a little extra cash behind, which we’ll donate to our charity of the month. The current month’s charity is always listed on the bottom of the menu.
Is there a service charge for to-go orders?
No, the charge is for table or bar service only. Our food does taste better right off the grill, so we encourage you to eat here when possible. Plus, it’s fun.
Why do you charge tax on the service charge?
The State of California taxes a charge for table service, as per Regulation 1603 (g)(2)(B). They require us to collect the tax and send it to them.
I know that while you pretend to be a nice, honest person, you are actually a evil mastermind bent on world domination through misinformation and subterfuge. What’s your hidden agenda?
You caught me. And I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for these meddling kids.
Hey, there’s a whole field of study as to how servers can increase their tips by doing such things as touching guests on the shoulder, or predicting that the next day’s weather will be sunny. Check out Mega Tips from Cornell University.
We don’t want to be in the business of figuring out how to get you to give us a few percentage points more in tips. We want to be in the business of giving you great food and beverages at a moderate price, of bringing you closer to the people who make your food, and in providing a great community. By eliminating the tipping transaction, were making another step in that direction.
Now I’m going back to my volcanic lair.
Where can I find more discussion about this idea?
Here are several interesting articles on-line about this subject:
- The aforementioned New York Times Sunday Magazine article about the Linkery.
- This installment of Ask a Waiter provides the most thoughtful and detailed analysis of the subject I’d read prior to us adopting the policy. I disagree with the writer on one point: he argues that tipping (as opposed to service charge or including service in item prices) financially benefits the restaurant owner at the expense of employee relations. My experience is that tipping and service charge are basically financially neutral to the owner, but that tipping both fosters disincentives to teamwork and creates operational inefficiencies which have to be made up with higher prices or poorer execution.
- The New York Times provides a pretty accurate overview of the state of tipping.
- Here’s an article from the Chicago Tribune explaining why eliminating tipping won’t work at restaurants such as ours, even though “the idea has merit”.
- Finally, a blogger’s well-written reaction to the Chicago Tribune article above.