Back in 2016, Michelin three-star restaurant Eleven Madison Park was part of a vanguard of restaurants rethinking how employees were compensated and diners paid for their meal. Instead of relying on tips to pay their front of house staff, the restaurant eliminated gratuities, raised prices and made the price of dinner inclusive of service. That allowed them to compensate kitchen and wait staff more equitably. It wasn’t just them; Danny Meyer eliminated tipping at all his restaurants as well.
When the pandemic’s initial lockdowns began lifting in summer of 2020, Danny Meyer decided to reinstate tipping, in a move that he hoped would increase the pay of the service staff he was rehiring. Eleven Madison Park will bring back tipping too, Eater NY first reported. In an email to customers last week, the restaurant announced the change would begin effective February 3.
“After years of using this system, we learned that it does not positively provide for anyone in this new normal,” the restaurant told its customers about its no tipping policy. “As times change, so must we. This adjustment will allow us to pay our dining room team more competitively, while also allowing us to increase the wages for all of those in our kitchen.”
While Eleven Madison Park will bring back tipping, the menu prices will remain what they were when they still included gratuity. So the dining room tasting menu will remain $335 and the bar tasting menu will be $175, but now diners will tip on top of that.
“When we reinstitute gratuities, we will be able to adjust the hourly pay of our food service team as a result of their wages being supplemented by the gratuities collected,” restaurant spokesperson Ben Rosenthal told Robb Report. “Using that savings, we will increase the hourly pay of our kitchen team. Being able to pay our dining room and kitchen teams at Eleven Madison Park more competitively was our key motivation behind this adjustment.”
The new policy comes as the restaurant industry still endures a staffing shortage brought about the pandemic that has led to competition for employees and increased wages for restaurant workers. The staffing problems have only been exacerbated by the Omicron surge, which has caused employees across the economy to have to quarantine again. At the same time, research has shown that tipping can lead to racial and gender discrimination in compensation for employees, causing groups like One Fair Wage to lobby against tipping and the tipped minimum wage.
And for Eleven Madison Park it’s yet another major change since it reopened last June, when the former World No. 1 restaurant ditched meat for a vegan tasting menu.