Year of Upheaval for Restaurants That Ended Tipping

December 30, 2016

community updates

The owners of Huertas, a cheerful Spanish small-plates restaurant in the East Village, knew they would have to raise prices when they abolished tipping last December. But when the octopus plate rose to $21 from $16, they looked at the plate and realized another adjustment was needed.

“We decided to add a tentacle,” an owner, Nate Adler, said. The extra limb costs about a dollar, but the more substantial dish eased the sting of the $5 price increase.

“Ultimately it’s not about the numbers on the check, but about whether the balance and the value feels right to people as they leave the restaurant,” Mr. Adler said. “It’s not an entirely rational system.”

A rational system is exactly what he was hoping for when Huertas joined several restaurants in Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group — Maialino, Marta, the Modern, North End Grill and (as of last week) Gramercy Tavern and the newly reopened Union Square Café — that have stopped accepting tips. The switch is part of an effort to bring the nation’s roughly $800 billion restaurant business, with its frequently chaotic and unprofessional practices and traditions, in line with modern workplace standards.

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