Tipping etiquette at restaurants in New York is essentially the same as in most places in America, so our NYC Tipping Guide is the same: tip at least 18%, and if the service is fantastic, tip a little more.
Some people still adhere to the philosophy that the entirety of the tip should be based on merit. And if restaurants were operating in a just system, perhaps that could be the case – more on that later. Consider this hypothetical situation, for instance: you’ve just enjoyed a fine dining experience – New York City has no shortage of them – with your significant other and your server delivers the bill. Apps, drinks, entrees and desserts amount to about $100. You think, “My server was fine, but all he did was take my order and check in a couple times – is that really worthy of $18-20 on top of what he’s already making hourly?”
Servers, though, aren’t pocketing that whole $18-20; they’re usually ‘tipping out’ a percentage of their tips to bussers, food runners and/or bartenders. And that hourly wage they’re getting paid? Federal law only requires restaurants to pay tipped employees a measly $2.13 an hour – most of which goes right toward paying the taxes on the tips servers have to declare at the end of their shifts.
Requirements for tipped employee wages vary from state to state, and New York currently sits right around the $5 mark, but that’s soon to change. The city will join a national social movement that’s steadily increasing minimum wages, spiking its own to about $7.50.
Some restaurant owners in New York City are taking it a step further. Back in April, New York’s vegetable gourmet Amanda Cohen moved her petite all-veggie restaurant, Dirt Candy, to a space five times the size. In conjunction with the move, Cohen implemented a radical new policy: there would be no tipping; in its stead, each guest would pay a 20% service fee.
Similarly, in October, the Union Square Hospitality Group announced that it would be eradicating tipping from each of its 13 venues – a list that includes some of New York’s most important restaurants. USHG CEO and general restaurant pioneer, Danny Meyer, is leading the charge, envisaging a European-style system in which menu prices are all-inclusive. In an edition of Union Square Café’s newsletter, he wrote:
“Imagine, if to prompt better service from your shoe salesman, you had to tip on the cost of your shoes, factoring in your perception of his shoe knowledge and the number of trips he took to the stockroom in search of your size. As a customer, isn’t it less complicated that the service he performs is included in the price of your shoes?”
So before you consider paying less than the accepted standard, imagine what it would be like if your own career and well-being were contingent on a system of merit-based tips.
Slowly but surely, it seems that New York tipping culture is transitioning to a model that reflects America’s growing awareness of a pervasive and unwarranted inequality within its workforce. That said, the overwhelming majority of restaurants in New York are still tip-based, so when you travel to the city, you should expect to abide by the no-less-than 18% rule.This entry was posted in Food
- Amanda Cohen
- Danny Meyer
- dirt candy
- minimum wage
- Union Square
- union square cafe
- Union Square Hospitality Group