Tipping’s Days May Be Numbered

Oakland’s minimum wage hike prompted more area restaurants to eliminate tipping. Is this the beginning of the end?


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And according to the City of Oakland’s “six-month update” following the implementation of Measure FF, Oakland has seen a decline in the unemployment rate and a rise in employment. The report also noted that the minimum wage ordinance promotes social equity by reducing income disparity among Oakland workers. For some East Bay restaurateurs, eliminating tipping is an attempt to reduce income disparity within their business.

As with any deep-seated tradition, people seem reluctant to tinker with tipping; servers working under a no-tipping system seem reluctant even to talk about it.

For their part, as restaurateurs fiddle with the tipping model, they try hard to inform customers, with signs on windows, messages on menus, and open discussion. The credit card tip line has disappeared. At Bocanova, servers must obtain manager approval for extra gratuity added to a credit card receipt. Camino’s website offers a charming letter explaining the system. And at Berkeley sister restaurants Comal and The Advocate, detailed answers to service charge FAQs appear online—complete with links to scholarly research on tipping.

Last April, Lanesplitter Pizza, with five restaurants in four East Bay cities, eradicated tipping and promoted a “living wage” for employees with the motto “Sustainably Served, No Tips Necessary.” Diner Kathy Guarneri liked the pizza, the service, and the simplicity. She says that not figuring a tip “takes the pressure off” when paying—and it beats doing the math. If the new wage is fair for the employees, she’s willing to pay more. The way she sees it, people can choose to go out to eat, or not. “If the service isn’t up to your expectations, speak to the manager and don’t go back,” Guarneri said. “And if the service is amazingly good, you can always tip more.”

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