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Eight in 10 Restaurant Patrons Aren't Ready to Ban Tipping: Study

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A whopping 81 percent would prefer to stick with traditional tipping.

Many Americans disagree with Danny Meyer's plans to eliminate tipping.
Many Americans disagree with Danny Meyer's plans to eliminate tipping.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In hopes of providing better compensation employees, restaurants across America have begun to move away from tipping and toward service surcharges. It's a controversial trend, with some in the industry championing the move as the wave of the future and others preferring to stick with the status quo. The vast majority of American diners fall in the latter camp, apparently.

A study conducted by Horizon Media found 81 percent of restaurant-going adults aren't ready to ban tipping. The research group polled 3,000 people, and those against the change said they prefer the decision to control tips based on a positive service experience — they're worried built-in surcharges will lead to less accountability and poor service. As is often the case with major change, young people are quicker to accept it. The study found 29 percent of people ages 18 to 34 believe tipping is an outdated and unfair practice, compared to 13 percent of people ages 50 to 64.

Among those who are in favor of eliminating traditional tipping, 34 percent said they are willing to pay an additional 15 percent per menu item. An additional 10 percent are willing to pay 18 to 25 percent more.

This study echoes the results of a previous poll issued by research firm AlixPartners, which found 65 percent of respondents would rather eat at a restaurant where they control how much they tip. Kirk Olson, vice president of TrendSights at Horizon Media, said younger Americans are more accepting of the change because of "real economic and life-stage realities at play."

"Many Millennials still face underemployment and Gen Z-ers who've begun working are often working service jobs dependent on tips," Olsen said in a prepared statement. "Considering the rising popularity of Bernie Sanders's 'living wage' stance among the same group, it makes perfect sense that they show greater interest in seeing tipping evolve. They're also more global and connected. They know ‘service included' is the way it's done elsewhere and think it would be better for the U.S., even if they're not convinced it will become a reality any time soon."

The anti-gratuity movement picked up major momentum when Union Square Hospitality Group founder Danny Meyer revealed plans to ban tipping at all of his restaurants. Smaller restaurants across America have been implementing the change, as well, and Joe's Crab Shack was the first major chain to get on board in August.