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Joe's Crab Shack Tests Out Ban On Tipping


Last month, Danny Meyer, the man behind some pretty famous New York City restaurants, said he's doing away with tipping. It turns out a national chain has been trying this out for a few months but just announced it. After you fill up on seafood and beer at certain Joe's Crab Shacks, you don't have to decide on how much to leave for the server. Here's NPR's Sonari Glinton.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: OK, who's big idea was it not to leave a tip?

RAY BLANCHETTE: This is Ray Blanchette. I'm the president and CEO of Ignite Restaurant Group.

GLINTON: OK, this guy.

BLANCHETTE: We own Joe's Crab Shack and Brickhouse Tavern and Tap.

GLINTON: That accounts for 131 restaurants around the country. At 18 Joe's Crab Shacks, they won't be accepting tips as a part of an experiment. Menu prices will be increased to compensate. Blanchette says the experiment is partly to close the gap between waiters in the front of the house and kitchen workers in the back. And...

BLANCHETTE: We have a responsibility to engage meaningfully in the minimum wage conversation - all right? - that it's sort of happening around us. And I was uncomfortable with our narrative.

GLINTON: Blanchette is not alone.

RICK BAYLESS: I think we're right in the middle of a paradigm shift right now.

GLINTON: Rick Bayless is a celebrity chef. He owns Frontera Grill, Topolobampo. You can tip at his restaurants for now, but he thinks he and the industry will change soon.

BAYLESS: Within a year, we're going to have a different approach to what we pay, and it's going to equalize a lot of the disparity that we see in wages in restaurants.

MICHAEL LYNN: Anything having to do with tipping, I've probably - I've certainly thought about it and probably studied it as well.

GLINTON: Michael Lynn is a consumer psychologist at Cornell University.

LYNN: There are plenty of people who want to show off, are going to want to leave a tip, and they'll start by complaining and asking you to change your policy. But if you hold out, they're going to start leaving cash tips on the side that you can't control.

GLINTON: Because Lynn says tipping isn't just restaurant policy. It's culture, and that's a lot harder to change. Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.