David Chang's Momokufu Ko Institutes No Tipping Policy
When David Chang first opened his take on an Italian restaurant, Momofuku Nishi, he decided to implement a bold new policy: Customers would no longer tip their servers. In exchange, the menu prices would be higher. The experiment lasted five months before Chang decided to bring tipping back to the dining room. At the time, he wrote on the company Tumblr page that the change in policy was by “no means the end of the no-tipping discussion at Momofuku,” and as it turns out, he wasn’t kidding. Today, the restaurant group announced that Chang's more upscale, two-Michelin-starred spot Momofuku Ko is giving the tip-free strategy another try.
According to Eater, the restaurant is currently on a “winter recess” but when it reopens, the tasting menu will go up by $60 to include a service charge, rising from $195 to $255. Customers will no longer be expected to leave a tip—and in fact, receipts won't even include a line in which you can write in a gratuity.
Danny Meyer also tried phasing out tipping at Union Square Hospitality Group about three years ago, with slightly more success. In a recent interview, Meyer says that his back-of-the-house staff now makes 20 percent more than when tips were still accepted at Union Square Café and Gramercy Tavern. But there was significant downside to the policy: He initially lost about 30 to 40 percent of his “legacy front-of-the-house” staff after implementing the policy.
In other aspects areas of the restaurant world, a heftier tip is becoming the new normal. Back in April of last year, Nation’s Restaurant News conducted a survey, which found that many restaurants were beginning to suggest a minimum 18 percent tip to customers.
Despite changes in the tipping policy at high-end restaurants, some service industry workers, like bartenders, still depend on the practice to make a living wage, as Food & Wine has reported in the past. As far back as 2016, American diners were already showing reservations about banning tipping at restaurants. One survey found that 81 percent of Americans were opposed to the idea of abolishing gratuity.