Six months after opening with a hospitality-included pricing model, David Chang’s restaurant Nishi has switched to a traditional format in which servers are tipped.
The move on June 4 was announced on Nishi’s menu, along with news that the Manhattan restaurant was serving brunch on weekends. The restaurant was the only unit within Chang’s Momofuku Group to experiment with no tipping.
In a note to guests explaining the decision to switch to traditional tipping, the restaurant team said the move will allow more flexibility in menu pricing.
Cooks, meanwhile, will continue to receive the same wages they were paid under the no-tip model, the menu also noted. It did not say how server wages were impacted, however.
“This is, by no means, the end of the no-tipping discussion at Momofuku,” the menu said. “But at this moment, we think a tipping model will benefit our guests and staff.”
Eater, however, noted that, while Nishi has garnered positive reviews for the food, some have complained that pricing was too high.
Chang is not the only restaurateur to experiment with a no-tipping format and then return to the traditional model, adding a line for tips back to the bill.
In New York, Gabe Stulman’s Fedora made the switch back to tipping, as did the hip Indian restaurant Babu Ji. In 2014 in San Francisco, early adopter Thad Vogler got rid of gratuities at Bar Agricole and Trou Normand, and later reversed the policy.
The Houston-based restaurant chain Joe’s Crab Shack attempted no tipping at 18 locations last year, but recently cut back the experiment to only four units after workers and customers expressed their dissatisfaction. Customers said they felt they lost control over incentivizing service and didn’t trust management to pass on menu price increases as wages to employees.
In March, Chang told “The Ezra Klein Show” on Vox.com that servers at Nishi were getting paid around $30 per hour under the hospitality-included format. He also noted in the interview that servers would make more money if the restaurant allowed tips.
In the podcast, he said, “The no-tipping is great, but I’m still reserving my judgment until I see it work. Right now, I think it works for a certain kind of restaurant. I don’t know if it works for all restaurants.”
Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, meanwhile, is moving forward with the roll out of a hospitality-included structure at his 13 restaurants, one that has included a menu price increase and revenue sharing for servers.
One goal was to increase pay for kitchen staffers who are not allowed by law to participate in tip pools. To reduce disparity between front- and back-of-the-house pay, the multi-concept group increased the pay of kitchen staff by $2 per hour.
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