Why the Country's Top Restaurants are Eliminating Tips

Thomas Keller paved the way in the United States over ten years ago, and it seems the hospitality world is finally catching up. Andrew Zimmerman is tweeting about "it." Danny Meyer is implementing "it" in all 13 of Union Square Hospitality’s New York Restaurants in 2016, even Time Magazine is covering "it."

In case you haven't heard, "it" is...


That's right, we said it. NO TIP.

In spite of the fact that the United States is one of the only countries where hospitality workers rely on customer tips as their primary source of income, the idea of restaurateurs changing the way they compensate their employees has created quite a stir. People are literally freaking out and journalists, chefs, wait staff, critics, restaurant owners and plenty of people outside the industry have responded with numerous opinions for consumers to devour. Just Google "restaurant service charge," and you'll find this trend has been steadily picking up steam in the hospitality world the past few years.

Those of you that have dined with us since October of 2015 know that Sargasso is one of the first restaurants in Morgantown to move toward the no tipping model.

Since October a 10% service charge has been applied to all of our guest checks. While we feel that this idea is a move in the right direction (and we're going to cover why), we admit that when the initiative first rolled out we should have done a much better job explaining the model to our staff and our guests.

We have fielded many questions about the policy and written clarification is now included in all our check presenters. It states:

Dear Friends,

The 10% service charge you see on your check goes toward the cost of operating the restaurant, including paying all direct service employees a competitive living wage. Voluntary guest tips over the 10% service charge are paid directly to your server.

The new model allows our entire team to earn a consistent income and helps us retain top talent. It also supports Sargasso’s mission to consistently provide all guests with impeccable service and an overall exceptional experience.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please feel free to speak with a manager. We would be happy to provide any additional information and feedback is always appreciated.

We truly value your patronage.


The Sargasso Family

Let's get to the important part. Why? We could fill this page with the philosophy behind the model, but we don't expect you to take our word for it. Our friends at OpenTable have explained it better than we could ever hope to here.

Let us address the next logical question, "You said NO TIP. Why a 10% service charge when everyone knows the current standard for exceptional service is 20%?"

Great question. We are not trying to confuse anyone, but that has been an unfortunate side effect. Like the other restaurants across the country who are experimenting with this model, we are trying to keep our market and our customers in mind. What is working in New York, doesn't work exactly the same way in Seattle, or anywhere else. We realize that letting go of tipping completely might be tough for some who really enjoy the ability to recognize an individual who has given them outstanding customer service. This is why there is currently still a tip line on our checks. If you would have left a 20% tip, now you pay a 10% service charge, and leave a 10% tip. The overall cost to the customer hasn't changed.

We acknowledge that right now this policy sets us apart from other local restaurants. It has always been a part of Sargasso's mission to explore the boundaries of what is happening in the hospitality world and we aren't afraid to be a little different as long as it benefits our customers and our staff.

At Sargasso it has always been about creating an incredible dining experience unlike anything else in Morgantown and we believe that takes a village, not just an individual.

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