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Growth Strategies / Ask Entrepreneur

Feeding the Anti-Tipping Movement

- Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the March 2009 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Ever feel like tipping has lost its charm? Tip jars are plentiful, and everyone from the bellboy to the barista expects a little something. Now some restaurant heavyweights are weighing in. Chefs Thomas Keller and Alice Waters have discouraged tipping by implementing a fixed service charge at their restaurants. Meanwhile, Jay Porter is taking it one step further at his San Diego farm-to-table restaurant, The Linkery. Not only did he set a service charge of 18 percent, but he also started an "anti-tipping laboratory," outright banning tips after observing that they were creating negative competition among his staff. "Within six weeks of making the switch, the e-mail feedback from our guests regarding service had a 180-degree change in tone," says Porter, 38, who started the experiment in 2006 and reports that sales have increased fivefold since then.

But will anti-tipping ever go mainstream? Michael Lynn, professor of consumer behavior at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, is doubtful. "There will always be some people who want to be generous and help the server or perhaps show off, so they'll leave tips," he says. "That's going to put social pressure on others. It just feeds on itself so you're [always] going to have tipping."

Want to try your own anti-tipping experiment?
  • Discuss your thoughts with your employees. It's crucial that everyone believes in the cause.
  • Equip your employees with an effective response to customers who are concerned about the set service charge.
  • Have a thick skin. Employees and customers might be openly critical at first.
  • Start with a staff that is committed to excellence. If your servers understand that they can deliver better service without tips, it won't be a matter of imposing the new system, but adopting it, says Jay Porter, who has successfully banned tips in his restaurant.
  • Have a set policy regarding what to do with tips left by customers.

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