Will Danny Meyer tip move change restaurant landscape?
21 Oct 2015•0 j'aime
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Union Square Hospitality Group's decision to eliminate tipping at its 13 full-service restaurants and instead raise prices may have significant implications for full-service restaurants across the U.S.
Union Square Hospitality Group’s decision to eliminate tipping
at its 13 full-service restaurants and instead raise prices may have
significant implications for full-service restaurants across the U.S.
CEO Danny Meyer said the company aims to boost pay for
staffers who don’t normally share in tips to waitstaff, such as
cooks, dishwashers and reservationists.
Labor, rent, credit card and tax expenses will likely jump
significantly, however, and the chain risks alienating customers
and its best waitstaff.
Eliminating tipping could be a way for full-service restaurants
to mitigate tax and legislative risks. The boost in hourly wages to
adjust for having no tips and keeping employees’ pay whole could
create breathing room against a barrage of municipal, state and
federal actions to adjust the minimum wage.
The move could also simplify record keeping and reduce the
risk of restaurants being audited and having to pay back FICA
(Federal Insurance Contributions Act) taxes on underreported
or unreported tips by employees.
A shift away from tipped wages in full-service restaurants could
translate into increased labor expenses, because higher hourly
rates would be needed to offset the loss of tips. The average
hourly wage for waiters in the U.S. was $10.40 in 2014, $8.27
more than the tipped minimum wage of $2.13.
This wage jump may be more than casual-dining chains could
offset with price increases. Operators will likely watch for how
employees and customers respond to Union Hospitality Group’s
decision to eliminate tipped wages.
Margins of heavily franchised full-service restaurant chains
DineEquity (99% franchised) and Denny’s (91%) are shielded
from the higher costs associated with a European-style
restaurant model that eliminates tipping and raises prices.
Franchisees would pay the higher labor, rent, credit card and tax
expenses that would likely result if the U.S. restaurant industry
adopts this system. Ruth’s Hospitality Group (55%), Buffalo Wild
Wings (53%) and Brinker (45%) also have a significant number of
Restaurant rents may rise if full-service U.S. chains eliminate tipping.
Restaurants would raise menu prices, which would boost revenue
and drive up rents because of rental agreements that often require
restaurants to pay landlords a percentage of sales.
Rents may be renegotiated prior to the end of the lease
(often 10-20 years) depending on location. Chains in larger cities
may face concessions such as higher maintenance or longer terms.
An inability to renegotiate may mean some chains delay
Restauranteurs are likely to take a wait-and-see approach to Union
Square Hospitality Group’s adoption of the European-style restaurant
model. If eliminating tipping and raising prices spreads in the U.S.,
chains would likely invest in technology to reduce labor.
Server handhelds, tabletop tablets and mobile payment can enable
workers to cover more tables, allowing restaurants to have fewer front-
of-the-house employees. This would offset higher labor and employee
taxes. Remaining waitstaff would cover more tables. v
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