The debate over whether or not tipping is fair has become an increasingly noisy one in the past year, as exposes of poor restaurant pay and the battle over a tip credit for the proposed minimum-wage increases in SF and Oakland have raged. But aside from a handful of high-end tasting-menu restaurants, few spots have put their money where their mouth is when it comes to ending tipping. (One exception: The Square, which launched with an automatic gratuity that it eventually dumped due to customer dissatisfaction.)
But, as the Chron reports, a new band of top-notch (but not high-end) restaurants have decided to make another run at the no-tipping policy, hoping their collective power will have an impact. Over the next few weeks, sister spots Bar Agricole and Trou Normand, along with an unaffiliated trio of East Bay restaurants, Camino, Comal, and Duende, are kissing tipping goodbye. In its place: an automatic 20% gratuity.
The restaurateurs say this move is intended to get out ahead of the minimum-wage increases that will likely pass in both SF and Oakland, for both ideological and economic reasons. "Why rely on legislation to do the right thing?" Thad Vogler, owner of Bar Agricole and Trou Normand, told the Chron. The five restaurants will compensate their staff via merit-based hourly wages and profit-sharing, which aim to tamp down the pay inequity so common between the kitchen and front-of-house, where employees are likely to be younger, whiter, and childless—and often make three to four times as much, thanks to tips. Servers at the five restaurants will advise parties of the tip policy before they order, and the 20% gratuity will be automatically charged to the bill, with no extra line for an added tip.
The teams behind the five restaurants cited two sources of inspiration: Chez Panisse, which has long had a standard gratuity, and San Diego restaurateur Jay Porter, an advocate against tipping who recently moved to the Bay Area and plans to open a tipless restaurant, Salsipuedes, in Oakland later this year. Will diners revolt? Will other restaurants in the Bay Area follow their lead? It remains to be seen.