The suit alleges that chefs at no-tipping restaurants are unfairly jacking up prices at the expense of consumers and servers.
The no-tipping movement has always faced some backlash—but now it's facing a lawsuit.
According to Law360, a class-action lawsuit filed in California on Friday is targeting several big-name restaurants in New York and the Bay Area. Among the defendants are no-tipping advocates Danny Meyer and Momofuku's David Chang, who are considered pioneers in the movement to raise fixed, hourly wages, rather than making servers rely on tips for a living wage. The complaint alleges that restaurant owners are holding secret meetings and eliminating tips for the sole purpose of raising prices as part of a vast anti-competitive conspiracy.
“The ongoing conspiracy unlawfully transfers millions of dollars from customers and servers to restaurant owners in violation of federal and state antitrust laws,” the complaint said. “Participating restaurants and a compliant media have portrayed the no-tipping/higher prices movement as intended to promote social justice and equality, while the real aim and effect is greater profit at the expense of workers and consumers.”
The plaintiff, Timothy Brown, suggests that Meyer is pressuring restaurant owners to eliminate tipping in these alleged secret meetings.
The no-tipping movement has only grown larger this year, with Joe’s Crab Shack becoming the first national chain announcing they'd be testing out the model in June. This came just seven months after Meyer shook up the restaurant world by ending tipping in all 13 of his New York City-based restaurants.
“There are countless laws and regulations that determine which positions in a restaurant may, and may not share in gratuities," Meyer said in the statement announcing his decision. "We believe hospitality is a team sport, and that it takes an entire team to provide you with the experiences you have come to expect from us,” added, later continuing, “We will now have the ability to compensate all of our employees equitably, competitively, and professionally. And by eliminating tipping, our employees who want to grow financially and professionally will be able to earn those opportunities based on the merit of their work.”