Owner Clarifies Sally’s Middle Name’s 18% service charge instead of tipping – also 3 Day Brunch Service Starts this Weekend and Booze by end of the Week!

Sally's middle name
1320 H Street, NE

From an email:

“We’re really excited to be trying something new that will potentially improve quality of life for our employees.

I did just notice that there was quite a bit of heated debate going on in the comments so I wondered if you mind clarifying one point – we are paying people a much higher hourly wage than the $2.77 minimum (over 3 times the minimum), and have a few people on salary. We are also offering retirement plans and hope to offer health benefits in the future.

Also – We’re starting brunch service this weekend! Saturday, Sunday, and Monday from 10:30am – 3:00pm, and will (fingers crossed) hopefully have beer & wine by the end of the week.”

130 Comment

  • So they’re paid more, and I’m STILL paying a mandatory 18%? No thanks.

    • Yes, because the average server getting tips brings in 20/hr give or take, so simply paying 9/hr isn’t going to cover the difference. Also it’s being divided among all staff. They also offering things most servers have to cover from that 20…retirement and healthcare, so their costs are a lot higher. Unless you’re a bad tipper usually, you aren’t paying any more than you would in a normal full service setting. I’m not sure why that’s not obvious.

      • dumplingdreams

        20/hr?? God, I don’t even make 20/hr and I have human lives in my hands. I think this country has seriously lost perspective on what hard work means and/or what types of jobs are worth monetarily.

    • Anon – don’t go out to eat if you’re not considering tipping. 18% is below the standard 20%, which is an amount you should factor in anyway when planning on eating at a restaurant. I am sure they will work with customers if the service was abysmal and you don’t feel a tip at 18% is warranted.

      • 20% is not the standard. Standard is 15-20%. (And frankly, I don’t understand why the standard changed from being 15% to being the 15-20% range.)

        • No, 20 is the standard. You should only give less than 18 if the service was bad, and even then you shouldn’t go under 15.

          • Actually, the standard *is* 15%. If the service is outstanding, you can do 20%. TripAdvisor has a tipping etiquette thing that mentions 15 as the standard for acceptable service, with 20 being for outstanding. A lot of people are pushing to make 18-20 more typical, but 15% is still standard for regular service. Sorry, waiters! I don’t buy into the pressure for making the tip larger for regular service. For the record, I usually do something between 15 and 20, and sometimes more if the person is just fantastic.

          • If I went on a date with someone, and they only tipped 15 for good service, I would consider them to be a money-grubbing ass and would not go on a second date with them.

          • So it’s the standard because trip advisor says so? Why are they the barometer?

          • Anon is partially right. 15% is the standard for breakfast / lunch, while 20% is the standard for dinner. Some people do consider brunch to fall into the 20% category since their is a higher level of attention during most brunch services (buffets obviously excluded).

            That being said, after many many years of working in all different types of restaurants, everything from small local delis to James Beard winners, I typically tip 20% and round up to the nearest dollar or multiple or 5.

          • The standard is def not 20%, that would be 15%. I agree with those who are against the 18% service charge. This charge does nothing to insure prompt service. I applause the higher wage for their servers, but I’ll decide what I tip.

          • Anon Spock, I could answer you with, “Who made 20 percent the new standard?” And no, the Huffington Post doesn’t count. I literally have an etiquette instructor in my family- in addition to the fact that I come from a family that is both obsessed with both good food and good manners. We typically do more than 15 percent. However, that doesn’t mean the standard has shifted from 15 percent. If the wage is too low, the restaurants need to reconsider what they pay if people are making a beeline for the door due to paltry wages- that is, if they actually are making a beeline for the door due to 15 percent tips…

          • I stand corrected, Tom Sietsima (2011) says 18 -20% is standard, and anything less is indicates poor service

          • People aren’t beelining for the door because most people don’t tip 15%. Having worked in restaurants for 7 years I would like to think what I’ve experienced is a great barometer, and most tips were 20%+. Maybe I just gave such great service they bumped up, but I can assure you not. I can’t say where it originated, but my experience says 20% is par for most.

        • I grew up in a part of the country where 10% was standard. But I think 20% is the minimum here. I’ve never heard of anyone tipping less unless the server did something atrocious.

          • “I grew up in a part of the country where 10% was standard.”
            Ah yes, I love the values of “real America.” 10%? No one can live on that. Wtf.

          • Ironically real America is the most likely to get their monies worth and will run your butt ragged.

          • dumplingdreams

            Who are we to decide who can live off of what? Again, economic word games.

        • Where are you from anon? No troll really curious where you get that idea from.

          • Disagree. 20% is not standard. It’s “always” been (how I was taught) 15% is standard, 18% is for good service, 20% is superior.
            Further, if you want to get down to it, you’re not “supposed” to tip even %15 on the total bill, it’s only the cost of the food (pre-tax). Alcohol and drinks are “supposed” to be tipped on separately and definitely not at %15. So I hope, Anon Spock, that you are following all the rules and not just your own rules when you start chastising people.

          • It was 15% when you were taught at least 15 years ago but *~* shocker!*~* time moves ever onward and cost of living as well as social customs change and now it’s 20% min. Sorry Dupont Resident.

          • Where does that idea come from? So if you drink at a bar you’re not supposed to tip? This sounds like miss manners for people who can’t afford to dine out. Maybe this practice was standard some time ago, but it is no longer the case. I haven’t made up anything new; this is the standard in the service industry today not 30, 40 or 50 years ago when you family dusted off the etiquette book.

        • To clarify I’ve done everything from pizza delivery to white table cloth fine dining, but Tom is always good on these things.

        • 20% is the standard and has been for about 20 years now.

        • Whoa. I thought 25% was the standard and 30% was for excellent service. I’ve been WAY over-tipping.

      • Amen. What they pay their employees is really none of your business and has no bearing on what you should be tipping them. Without a tip, these servers would be making below the minimum wage.

        My only issue with a mandatory tip is that to me a tip is my valuation of the level of service I have received. Making it mandatory makes it a fee, not a tip. But otherwise, I support paying servers more and offering benefits.

        • While to you a tip is may be an expression of your assessment of the hop-to-itness of the staff, to them it is what pays their rent and puts food on their own tables. The idea of holding back payment based on a subjective standard of how deeply someone kowtowed is loathsome and should have been done away with the idea of blood nobility.

          • Thank you, Charles.

          • +1000000

            Plus, even if a tip was an expression of our contentment with their service, how can they know that a low tip means poor service, as opposed to the customer just being a low-tipping jerk?

        • houseintherear

          Just to clarify- without a tip, these servers’ earnings would need to be supplemented by the restaurant to reach minimum wage/hr. That’s the law. So that’s really the reason the restaurant is doing it, I’d guess… it’s easier.

          • If they pay 3x server minimum, they are at or pretty close to minimum wage already. The service charge is to ensure servers are comparable to their peers in normal restaurants otherwise why would they work there.

          • houseintherear

            I was clarifying Duponter’s statement that, “Without a tip, these servers would be making below the minimum wage.”

          • Pretty close to, yes. At, no.

        • To be fair, the restaurant never advertised the 18% as a “tip,” mandatory or not. They’ve always called it a “service fee.” Many countries in Europe have the service fee added as a line item, just like this place.

          • justinbc

            Yep, pretty much every country I’ve visited in Europe uses the service fee model, with tipping being optional rather than obligatory. It would be nice if we could revert to that model, but I’m sure all the “job creators” out there would be up in arms.

          • Thank you for the clarification. If not mandatory, then obviously my point does not carry. I wasn’t making a judgment call on it. I was simply noting that if mandatory, it’s a fee, not a tip. A tip is gratuity. The entire premise of gratuity is to thank someone for their service and the amount is a reflection of how grateful you are for it. Removing that aspect of it means it is not a tip. To the sensitive people above like Charles, you’re absolutely right, but that was not at all my point. It is what puts food on their table and pays their rent, but that does not change what fundamentally a tip is. If a person should get a certain pay regardless of the quality of their work, why do we not simply move to a system of paying higher prices for food so employers can ensure that their employees can put food on the table/pay their rent? That said, I think most of my friends in the service industry would rather stick to the status quo because frankly they make more money that way.

            And just to note, I tip always, even terrible servers precisely for the reasons you mention. I was simply noting that if gratuity becomes compulsory, it isn’t gratuity. It’s a service fee.

      • dumplingdreams

        The standard?? See, this is what enrages me, and it’s what I was talking about when I wrote that this is so ingrained in our culture that it’s not even questioned. The standard?? According to WHOM? Is it a law? Did the American people put this to a vote? Was it declared by presidential executive order? What? It is completely MADE UP. When I was growing up in the 80’s it was 10%. Then it was 15% and now it’s 20%. How much higher are we going to do and to what excuses will we bend over for it?

      • Growing up in Florida, I was taught by my parents to tip 15% for average service. 10 for subpar and 20 for good. And always on pre tax.

    • everyone is missing the point. if you are a 15% tipper and you rack up a $100 bill, you are going to tip $15, but a mandatory 18% tip is only $3 more for you. What’s another $3 when you just spent $100 on dinner? ever heard the saying “penny wise and pound foolish”?

  • justinbc

    Good for them, too bad I missed the previous discussion. I’m surprised there aren’t any ignorant people bitching about it on Yelp yet.

    • You missed everyone bitching about it here, because apparently Popvillians feel like their ability to punish bad servers is more important than people making a decent wage.

      • +100
        As a former server, I think this is a great idea. The bill will be no more than what I’d usually pay.
        The only folks complaining are the cheapskates. I’m glad they’ve been self-identified in the previous thread.

        • It’s helpful to be reminded every so often that a good chunk of the commentariat here are awful human beings.

          • Geez louise, dude. You sound like you’re a very unpleasant person based on your nasty comments here and in other stories. You have no idea who the commenters are on this site. Those of us who tip in the 15-20 percent range could easily be giving thousands of dollars to charity, and you? Yikes. There is medicine that can help, though (I’m being serious, friend).

          • Carlos may be a jerk occasionally on the PoP, but I defend his right to use blunt language. Human beings are self-absorbed pieces of garbage most of the time. He’s right on that.
            As for your charitable givings, be sure to write that on the receipt so your server can put into better context your crappy tip [/sarcasm]

          • You stay classy, anonymous.

          • Whoa, The OP Anon. I’m leaving this discussion. I know the Internet boards can bring out a lot of angry people, but ugh. Have a nice day.

          • Humans might be self-absorbed pieces of garbage much of the time, but I disagree that someone who tips 15% is a piece of garbage. The restaurant industry has been pushing this 20% thing for a while now, so maybe that’s why people in their early thirties and younger think that’s the standard.

      • justinbc

        It’s such a ridiculously outdated custom. I can’t think of any other industry where the employer is allowed to pass the cost of paying their employees over to the customers.

        • Every single industry does that in the prices of the services/goods they offer. If tipping was eliminated (and I support this), obviously employers would push that cost into the price of the food you’re ordering. So you’re still paying for it. What bothers me about it isn’t that they are passing the cost onto me, but that if I determine I’m not tipping 20% for crappy service, I’m a cheapskate (see comments above). It puts the onus on customers to essentially reward behavior for servers. It’s a terrible thing to do. Let the employers decide if the servers or good or not. I just don’t think that is really my job as a customer. But I also recognize eliminating tipping means I’m paying more for everything. I’m fine with that. But the employer will still be shifting the cost to customers.

          • justinbc

            Yes, it’s true that you’re paying for it via increased menu item costs, but the effect is really not that dramatic, and the cost is fixed rather than variable. This is good for both the consumer and the server, and it has the added benefit of ensuring that all wages are taxed appropriately.

      • +1!!!
        Also a former server and definitely couldn’t have said it better myself. 18% is really where it needs to be for people to be making a decent wage, and then if service is exemplary you can tip in addition to that. Servers livelihoods should not be subject to subjective standards. If they are REALLY that bad, it is the job of their manager / maître d’ to correct the problem… it should not be the patron’s job to punish them.

        • justinbc

          Well, even 18% is still being subjective, because it’s based on the restaurant’s prices and average table amount. An 18% service fee at a little noodle shop isn’t going to go nearly as far as it will at Del Frisco’s. Servers should be paid hourly, or salary for certain positions. Passing it onto the customer via a standard fee is at least a step in the right direction, but it’s still relinquishing some responsibility from the business owner.

        • Hear, hear. If your service is really that bad, let the manager know, and I have no doubt that–at least at Sally’s–s/he would reduce or eliminate the required service fee. Or, you know, just don’t go there. I’d bet that every night that place will be full of current and former restaurant people who appreciate this.

          • Oh, also–hooray for retirement plans and health benefits! I haven’t been a server for 20 years, but I still remember that being one of the reasons I got out of the business.

          • For me it was always the variable scheduling.

      • +1. Some people take joy in asserting whatever paltry amount of control they can over others, I guess. I’d prefer to eat at a place where the employees are treated with respect. Serfdom is so 15th century.

        • Most servers I know prefer a system where they can be over rewarded for being good at their jobs. Many make a lot more than what they’d ever get paid in a serfless society. I have friends who rake in a lot waiting tables. And look for jobs at places where this is possible. And patrons benefit from that because you get exemplary service from those people. If you pay them all even $15/hour, I assure you the quality will diminish because a lot of really good servers will have to find other jobs to make what they are currently making.

          That isn’t the case everywhere for sure, but no server is going to make $300/day in a tipless system.

          • Places that are flat typically give benefits to make up for the loss in wages+ tips. For many people the difference wouldn’t be so great.

    • They bitched here plenty.

  • Thanks for the clarification. I think this is great.

  • @Anon

    In order to pay your wait staff a decent wage, you either have to up your prices (and thereby appear less competitive with other restaurants while people still feel the social pressure and obligation to tip) or you charge a standard mandatory tip which provides the staff the desirable wages while not leaving them at the will of a fickle tipper.

  • I think this is an excellent step in evolving the service industries wages. If you don’t understand why this a positive change then maybe you should go work in the service industry and find out for yourself.

  • Aglets

    I for one, am excited to have you in the neighborhood Sally’s Middle Name and I like your style. See you this weekend.

  • Interesting that many people are saying 20% is the standard. I’ve always thought it was 15-20% and 20% was reserved for good to excellent service, while 15% is for average service. Also, I have always tipped on the total (including tax), but recently some people have told me you tip on the total BEFORE taxes? Which is it?

    • justinbc

      You tip before taxes. Any time you see a service fee attached to your bill (for example in parties of 6 or more at many/most restaurants) it is required by law to be pre-tax amount.

    • Standard is to tip on the total before taxes. Since the meal tax in DC is 10%, I usually just double the tax amount as the tip. Makes the math really easy!

    • I think either with or without tax is fine. The difference isn’t huge, but I’m doing post tax % of the time. I just don’t isn’t time to deduct tax every time I eat out.

    • 20% on the total incl. tax. I’m always shocked when people only tip on the pre-tax amount.

      • “Shocked” – really? Seems like a bit of hyperbole.
        As a server, it was always a happy accident when someone tipped on the post-tax total. But that was never, ever expected. Why should a customer pay more in tip to me simply because the government decided to take a piece of the action?

        • Interesting. I have always tipped on the post-tax amount and in group settings have never once heard any friends say otherwise and all seem to do the same. Not sure the pre-tax tipping is as standard as most people think.

    • I think it’s somewhat dependent on local custom. 15% was considered pretty standard where I grew up (much lower-cost area), but here in D.C. 20% seems pretty standard.

      • justinbc

        It’s very dependent on local custom. In areas where the average person makes more (like DC, SF, etc) it’s expected that those people will distribute some of wealth more liberally to those in the service industries, since they have to live in the same housing market, buy the same goods, etc, and yet are typically required to work for the restaurant version of minimum wage + gratuity. If you live in BFE Iowa and there’s like 2 cafes and half the diners are in various stages of unemployment, then it’s likely 10% is about all you can spare.

  • This is fantastic. Glad to eat somewhere that servers are well paid. Glad to be be rid of dinners who think they should lord the tip over their server’s head like task masters.

  • I wish this were the standard. I think the tipped employee system in the US sucks. Restaurants should pay their staff, and not put the onus on me, the customer, to do it for them. Just charge me enough to pay your people a decent wage.

  • Aglets

    I have always gone by 20% as the standard. I also am for people making a living wage. I don’t understand why people have their knickers in a twist over this.
    Honestly, I think it’s a great idea and I’m happy to not be dining with the Anons of the world.

    • “I don’t understand why people have their knickers in a twist over this.”
      Because of our awful American mindset that focuses on doling out “punishment” whenever possible for the slightest, (inaccurately) perceived infraction.They want to punish a server for not being a mind-reader or kowtowing to every whim of the customer. It’s a disgusting vestige of our slave/master historical context.

      • Say what now? It’s the service industry. Whether tipping is involved or not, I think most people expect good service for the goods and services they pay for.

        These servers are not slaves. What a ridiculous analogy.

      • OK, I agree with what you’re saying, but lol @ calling this a vestige of slavery (????!!), as opposed to human nature being inherently self-centered and greedy.

      • I think the “vestige of slavery” point is very salient in this discussion: serve, server, servant.

        • dumplingdreams

          Serve, server, servant = not dirty words. It is wonderful to serve others, and I highly respect those who have jobs in service to others. I think staff should be paid fairly by their employers — not by a social shakedown that makes part of the wages fall to the responsibility of the customer.

      • Aglets

        yeah i do agree with that. People are so disgusting to anyone they perceive in a service industry as if everyone should be so grateful for them.

    • Hear hear.

  • Love this and will put it on my list. Every bad tipper I’ve ever met was a butthole in most other aspects of their life, so I’m hoping this policy keeps that type away.

  • I’d honestly be ok with getting rid of tipping all together, paying more for food, and paying waiters a living standard.

  • Every time this argument comes up, I think back to that scene in Reservoir Dogs where Mr. Pink is arguing that he shouldn’t have to tip because the the waitress only filled his coffee 3 times… instead of 6! No one can illustrate how ridiculous people’s attitudes toward tipping are like Steve Buscemi.

    For reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-qV9wVGb38

  • Really, this whole controversy strikes me as kind of stupid.
    First, no one really cares about how much the servers and dishwashers make. No one walks into the CVS and compares the wages of the person behind the counter with the Walgreens. You go wherever it’s convenient. Similarly, no one has ever decided not to go to the corner bar/carrout/cafe because of what the busboy is taking home.
    Second — assuming that you tip like a grownup, and don’t get some weird power hardon by tinkering with the final amount (“I’m cutting it to 16.5% because he didn’t fill the water glasses fast enough”) — it doesn’t matter whether the tip is written in or the you choose it. It still costs more or less the same.
    Third — Reasonable, rational people decide where to eat and drink on a general cost/benefit calculation, not some weird accountancy-fetish breakdown of the final bill. Did you enjoy your hundred dollar meal enough to go back? If so — or not — it doesn’t much matter whether it was $75 plus a $25 tip or $82 and an $18 service charge. On rare occasions I’ll leave a lousy tip but it’s not like I’m going back to the restaurant anyway, despite the “savings”.

    • economists are an odd bunch.

    • pharmacy employees make minimum wage, so there is no comparing their situation to that of a server.

    • Not that pharmacies and restaurants are comparable – but personally if I had the choice between my local CVS and, say, a Wegman’s pharmacy (pays well above minimum wage and gives many part-timers health coverage)- I’d go out of my way for the latter.

      • Pharmacies and restaurants are comparable if one is making a big deal about patronizing one or the other based on the employees wages. My point is that rarely does anyone make a service industry patronage decision based on employee wages. You do it based on the level of service provided. Arguments about how this arrangement will affect servers wages are disingenuous — we’ll all go here or not based on whether we like the place based on the money we spend.

    • Agreed. Happy to give 20%, but what system a restaurant uses is not relevant to my decision. I do care about service more than food and have found average European restaurants to have sub par service.

      • Honestly, I’ve found European servers to be MUCH more knowledgeable than their American counterparts due to their longevity with the same establishment (which is ultimately tied to higher, stable pay and guaranteed social benefits). In Europe, being a server is a respected career. In the US, it’s something you do while in school or to make some extra money. A server in the U.S. – no matter their depth of knowledge – will never receive the same social cachet as a well educated professional.
        I go to Europe a lot for work and frequently eat out, at both very high end restaurants and (more frequently) at mid-range places aimed at locals. Their knowledge of ingredients, the extensive wine list, and ability to make recommendations is incredible. To get a similar experience in the US, I’d have to go to a place like Jean Georges. A recent dinner in Frankfurt that cost me 25 Euros would easily be two or three times that price in DC for the same meal. The waiter had excellent suggestions, as he intimately knew their specials (it’s asparagus season!) and new wines that would pair perfectly.
        Yes, European service can be slower. But that is a function of the culture of the country you’re in. Why do you think American service is so fast, if not rushed? It’s because there’s a dollar sign floating over your head and they want to flip that table. It has nothing to do with your enjoyment of the meal.

  • I Dont Get It

    I think this is a great idea and I hope other restaurants adopt it–not sure why all the venom on this. I’m looking forward to brunch!

  • See, all this confusion about how much to tip, pre-tax/post-tax, etc. is exactly why we need to just get rid of the service gratuity at restaurants altogether. Build it into the price of your goods, pay your employees a living wage, and have the customer pay the total price, no more no less. If Employee A waits on five tables one night and Employee B waits on 15, their wages for the night should be proportioned reflecting that. If a customer feels they had bad service, then complain to the manager and let them deal with it. Done and done!

  • Thought I’d add some empirical data to these opinions:

    I ate at Sally’s Middle Name last week. Three adults at my table ordered 10 different dishes. Every one of them was delicious. The service we received was attentive and enthusiastic. Our total bill was exactly $89.60 including tax and “tip.” It could have been lower but we ordered two proteins that were the most expensive things on the menu. We all left happily. The end.

  • When did 20% become “standard minimum” tip? I am not that old and distinctly remember when you tipped 15% for excellent service, less than that for substandard service. Now apparently the only reason you give someone 15% is if they were horrible and you are trying to make a point, and 20% is now so called “standard minimum”.

    And despite some folks personal opinion on the matter, poor service in restaurants is more standard than excellent service. Every.single.restaurant in the US where I’ve eaten that had this system, had reliably poor service. And why not? Why care what kind of service you provide your table when you know you are getting a ~18% (I’ve been places where the minimum was 20%)? The incentive is no longer there.

    Secondly, this annoys people for the same reason that people get annoyed when they shop for say, airline tickets and find the ticket for a certain price, then right before purchase have to pay an additional 20-25% in fees and add ons. Just include the money in the base price of the food and call it a day.

    I can guarantee you people won’t even notice you adding an extra ~$1.00 to the price of your “insert dish name here) food, especially if there is a note on the menu or in the window advertising its a no tip establishment. But people certainly will notice the expensive food, then a note at the bottom that says (18% automatically added to your bill).

    • “Why care what kind of service you provide your table when you know you are getting a ~18%”?
      Because you want to keep your job and have customers return?

      • west_egg

        Seriously. I want to know how many of the whiners here do crappy work at their desk job because their wage structure doesn’t include a tip at the end of the day.

    • HaileUnlikely

      I’ve never been to another restaurant in the US that uses this system. Are there really so many that you can safely isolate other factors and draw firm conclusions about the relationship between the tip vs. service fee system and the service? I’ve received crappy service lots of times where the servers work for tips.


      I’ve never had a job that entailed working for tips, but in general, I’ve found wanting to keep my job and not get fired to be a decent motivator to do my job well. I’d think that would carry over to the restaurant industry as well. If a restaurant has employees that don’t put forth appropriate effort and that treat customers poorly and doesn’t discipline or fire those employees, that says something about the management, irrespective of whether they do tips or services charges, and that doesn’t make me want to go back to that restaurant.

      • The only thing that’s similar is eating out in large groups, and I don’t think most people who do feel mistreated because tip is included. Other than maybe do more drivebys than in person checking, I’ve never given worse service to the group than to the regular tip not included tables.
        I’m curious how many of these places exist.
        So far, we have 1 actual diner at middle name and the price seems reasonable and service good.

      • It’s mostly hotel restaurants and bars that do the automatic 18%-20% gratuity. I’ve found service to be good in most of these places, simply because they have less customers.

    • In may years of dining out, I am hard pressed to think of restaurants in the U.S. that use this system (for parties under 6 people). The long lost and much lamented Cafe Rabelaise used it and they were terrible, but they were probably laundering money, they never actually had food, and all their servers illegal European gals, so the whole place was a little shifty. The French Laundry uses it and they have some of the best food and service in the world.
      I can’t think of any restaurants in DC that add a service charge, and service here can be pretty dicey despite the incentive of a variable tip. I expect that the determining factor is the quality of the management — who they hire and how they train and incent them — and not the style of service charge.

  • Doesn’t anyone see Sallie is not clarifying the 18% service charge (which I disagree with; I tip 20-25% for great service at Le Diplomate, but just tipped 10% at Clyde’s of GTown when the waiter was not busy and was a total mess) but wanted to get free ads for their upcoming brunch. Wake up people. See succeeded in a buzz, but I hope it backfires.

    • They didn’t clarify it, but instead, told you where the money goes. People seemed confused about that not the service charge really.

  • Tipping is so complicated. Ultimately, like a lot of posters, I resent the increase in the “customary” tip from what used to be 15% figured before taxes and not as much on beer/wine to now a flat 20% on the bottom line total.

    But, while I resent it and regret it… I largely conform with it, though it basically makes me mad every time I do it. I dont like that its basically mandatory and that your status as a good human being is dependent on this. I dont like that so many people base their perception on how you use your money (with tipping or otherwise).

    But, I also dont like the fact that restaurant workers are caught in the middle of a very complicated economic situation that is the result of an increasing level of profit/income expectations from owners, unrealistic price sensitivity of customers (who always want more for less), increased costs in the supply chain and localized cost of living/doing business driven by even more complicated factors, absurd tip credit laws, and, to be frank, the collective expectation of wait staff that a low/medium skilled service job should generate income that will provide their aspirational level of a standard of living. If they werent expecting to make and do more, and they had the reliability of income that salaried employees have, the tension over tipping would be reduced.

    That brings me to another point, there are low, medium, and highly paid waiters depending largely on the price points of the food being served. There are two sliding scales, one the price point of the food from low cost to high cost. The second sliding scale is whether a 15% or 20% or 25% tip is more unfair to the waitstaff or the customer. They are linked, so as the price goes up the customer is being treated less fairly by the tipping expectation.

    I have been to a variety of high-end restaurants. The service at a $250/seat dinner does not predictably or consistently end up being 10x the level as a $25/seat dinner. There isnt 10x the skill needed to serve the table, and while there may be 10x the experience level, it doesnt translate to a 10x better customer experience. It seems absurd to me that some of the highest earning waiters are making multiples more than the median income in this country simply based on a customary 20% instead of measurable/verifiable/repeated value creation and success.

    So, all of this is to say that I am happy that this new place is introducing a modicum of predictability into the restaurant experience. I wish that tipping didnt exist and waitstaff would be paid their value to their organization (which would translate probably to higher for the currently low waged worker and slightly lower or flat for the highest wage worker). But, the system described by this restaurant is a step in the right direction.

    • The price of the dinner while it does increase the tip, it doesn’t necessarily increase the earnings for the server. I made less money working in fine dining because people stayed longer, I had less tables, and I tipped out more. Price affects things because most people do the same % all the time, but restaurant size/server section matters too. Many professions are underpaid, and I have recommended serving to lots of people scraping by on less than median (Not sure what that is exactly but I’m thinking 40k/yr or less). With that being said, I’m all for no tips with benefits, but I know we’ll never get the status of European servers.

  • Generally, people think the reason to tip is related to insuring prompt service. I much prefer John Hodgeman’s point of view – which is essentially that you are really paying someone to do something you don’t want to do – whether it be cook, clean, drive, etc – and tipping is a way to say thank you. It’s an opportunity to be generous, which is why so many people use it as a measure to gauge someone’s character. Here’s a link to the full podcast: http://www.maximumfun.org/judge-john-hodgman/judge-john-hodgman-episode-158-tipping-scales-justice.

    That said, the overall system is broken. People in the service industry are overworked and undervalued. Companies are under enormous pressure to keep prices low and as a result pass on overhead costs to consumers – adding a tip is psychologically different than paying more for items/services. I don’t think that there is an easy solution, but I like that restaurants and other industries are trying different models.

  • dumplingdreams

    I won’t be eating there. PAY YOUR EMPLOYEES YOURSELF. Tips are the biggest scam ever perpetrated on the American consumer. And it’s so deeply embedded in our culture that most people 1: never question it AT ALL; or 2: have fully accepted the lie that wait staff will never be able to eat and provide for their families without tips and that therefore to NOT tip is an injustice against the working man/woman — in other words, the lie that there’s no other way for them to be paid fairly. But there IS a way, and here it is: EMPLOYERS, PAY YOUR EMPLOYEES YOURSELF and stop dropping this burden on the public who is already paying for your food in the first place. And with tipping ingrained in our culture we also have to pay to have your staff bring us the food we just paid for! It’s outrageous. This is not done elsewhere. Only in America do we have this irrational obsession with paying someone to bring us food we already paid for.

    • I think you’re confused. This restaurant is getting rid of tipping. You can eat there without tipping, guilt-free.

    • HaileUnlikely

      Just to clarify, this means you won’t be eating out anywhere in the US, or virtually nowhere, correct? If so, cool, no objection, just checking.

      • dumplingdreams

        HaileUnlikely: Don’t “clarify” for others. Please. It ends up with you putting words in our mouths.

        JCM: Am I “confused” about the restaurant adding on a significant “service charge” to what WOULD be a tip? This seems like a game of words. But hey, look over there BRUNCH THIS WEEKEND!

        • It’s exactly a game of words. Something that many people seem to be getting hung up on. Adding 18% as a service charge and increasing the price 18% and then paying the staff more have the same end effect on how much the guest pays.
          It’s not really that complicated.
          I’m sure they won’t be missing the type of folks that refuse to go there because they can’t get past the “price increase” being called a “service charge”.
          As they say, more room for the rest of us.

        • Yes, you are confused. You appear to think that because the service charge is broken out as a separate line-item, it’s a tip. However, it’s not a tip. It’s not optional, you can’t pay less, and you can’t pay more. It’s not a game of words, it’s a fundamentally different thing.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Ok, I apologize for putting words in your mouth. What I meant was: “Do you mean that you do not eat at any establishments where workers receive a share of tips as opposed to a salary?”

        • HaileUnlikely

          p.s. I happen to agree with most of what you said. I am sincerely curious regarding whether you refuse to eat anywhere that pays employees some share of tips vs. a salary or whether this place is somehow *more* offensive to you than one that pays employees via tips where customers tip the old fashioned way. If you refuse to give business to any business that pays employees via allocated tips, again, cool. If, on the other hand, you find Sally’s business model to be unequivocally worse than most other US restaurants, I’d love to understand why that is, because my conclusion was the opposite. Not that either was ideal – I completely agree that all employees should be paid a living wage and not have to depend upon tips, but at least on the surface, I find what Sally’s is doing to be much more respectful to both the workers and the customers than the old fashioned tip model.

        • dumplingdreams

          Thank you. I don’t know why it’s important what I do. However, here it is: I prefer to save money and be healthier by cooking. I don’t make a ton of money but I prefer to eat organic/natural and Whole Foods is expensive, so my choice is to shop there and cook for myself. I do eat out but only at privately owned/small business establishments and I generally don’t eat in unless I’m with friends/family as I dislike the enforced tipping. In the cases that I do eat in of my own will, I absolutely abide by the ridiculous tipping code because the staff expect it and therefore to deny them expected wages would be cruel. I do think tipping should be totally abolished.

    • Actually tipping is quite common in most of the world. It’s a pretty big misconception from Americans. Americans don’t tip abroad because think it’s the custom, but it’s not.

      • dumplingdreams

        You just might be right about “quite common”, but the list below does demonstrate that tipping is simply not done elsewhere like here. In most other places if it’s done, it really *is* a personal gratuity that amounts to a “thank you” and is not over-the-top or rigidly mandated. In some countries it’s not even done at all (Korea, Japan, and elsewhere) and is considered insulting. http://wikitravel.org/en/Tipping

        • FYI for KPS: Not sure, but I think I recognize your avatar from a different username. If that’s the case, you might want to clear your cookies.

  • Fine by me.

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