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Diners Might Not be Ready for No-Tip Restaurants

A new survey shows Americans are cold to the idea.

Shutterstock/Sean Locke

More and more big names in the restaurant industry are attempting to raise employees' wages by eliminating tipping. Danny Meyer and his Union Square Hospitality Group are leading the movement, but restaurants across America are implementing the policy. Those in favor of the idea say it's the way of the future.

The only problem is many Americans don't seem to be ready for that future.

In a survey conducted by research firm AlixPartners, 65 percent of respondents said they would rather eat at a restaurant where they control how much they tip, as opposed to paying a standard service surcharge. Nineteen percent said they're indifferent, and only 15 percent expressed support for a surcharge in lieu of tipping.

One might interpret those numbers as an indication that restaurant patrons in this country aren't concerned with pay levels for front- and back-of-house staff, but that isn't necessarily the case. Fifty-one percent said they agree with the movement for higher wages, and among those respondents, 63 percent said they're willing to pay higher menu prices. An optimist might look at the survey and believe Americans support higher wages and want the opportunity to reward good service with tips.

"What surprised me was how many people actually support the movement for higher wages," Molly Harnischfeger, an AlixPartners director, told Nation's Restaurant News. "It will be interesting to see how this number moves over time."

The vast majority of restaurants that have abandoned tipping are independent, though one major chain has gotten on board. Joe's Crab Shack is eliminating tips in participating markets, where servers' pay will start at $14 an hour. To offset the higher wages, Joe's is raising menu prices by 12 to 15 percent.