TODAY   |  August 21, 2013

Please don’t tip! Restaurants roll out new policy

If you go to a high-end restaurant, you may get a surprise note on your bill asking you not to tip your waiter. TODAY’s Erica Hill reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> but first on today's cover story , it's tipping at a tipping point. erica hill has more on that story.

>> if you don't include the tips the hourly wage for waiters is at or below the federal minimum wage . now high profile restaurants decided to pay their wait staff full time salaries, in some cases even benefits, telling their customers to skip the tip.

>> $2, that's all you're going to leave?

>> it's 15%.

>> that's 13%. these people depend on tips for a living.

>> reporter: some people aren't big tippers.

>> you don't leave a tip?

>> i don't tip because society says i have to.

>> reporter: others don't tip at all.

>> is an 18% tip included and then a space for an additional tip.

>> reporter: and plenty more struggle with the appropriate amount. 15, 20%? more? at some high end restaurants you no long ver to break out the calculator. places where it's clear gratuity is not accepted. the no-tip policy is also standard in berkeley and the famed french laundry . instead they're figured into the menu prices which can support full time salaries for the wait staff . it's the way many european restaurant versus done it for years that's why these tourists were surprised to learn about the tipping custom at american restaurants like the 101 coffee shop in hollywood.

>> it's shocking. we don't tip at all.

>> reporter: for carrie, tips are her livelihood.

>> people don't realize we make minimum wage .

>> reporter: one advocate group is pushing for all restaurants to pay higher wages for their wait staff .

>> people that put food on our tables can't afford to eat themselves.

>> reporter: each restaurant has to decide what's best for it's business and tipping is part of what makes food service such an attractive industry. and it turns out, not every customer is ready to stop tipping .

>> we left 25, almost 30%. she was great.

>> now as far as the service you get from a waiter on a salary versus a waiter working for a tip a recent study by cornell university shows tipping isn't as much of an incentive for good service as much would believe.

>>> thank you so much. she is the owner of two restaurants including here in new york city . good morning to you.

>> good morning.

>> we did a poll on this. when we asked our viewers should american restaurants abollish tipping 58% said yes and 42% said no. did that surprise you?

>> it did.

>> some people think if you don't have the incentive of a tip, watch out, the service will drop off.

>> yeah.

>> you agree?

>> this has many faces and it depends on the part of the city and the restaurant but i do agree. this is a culture where we are known for our service and incentivized by this form of service . i grew up spending my summers in europe where it's based on this type of policy where they're working on. the service is not as good as in america.

>> some people would love the idea of having to put the calculator away because they tonight want to do the math but it should be remembered that servers are making far less than minimum wage . tips is where they get their money. would they want to see tipping go away.

>> i did an unofficial poll last night in my restaurant and the overall reaction is they wouldn't want to see tips going away. a lot of them are in it for the hunt and i think that it is definitely a part of our culture and they are -- they would not want -- they would not want it. but that being said, higher end restaurants and there is a movement and it's justified in higher end restaurants where they're more professionals and they want stability in this very unstable economy.

>> let's go out to al on the plaza with fans. what do people say about this?

>> we have chris from new york and patti from detriot. what's your opinion?

>> get rid of tipping and pay waiters and waitresses a living wage . they are happier and better service and i don't have to use the math.

>> you disagree.

>> i do. i think we're motivated by money and the more money they can make the better service they'll give us.

>> patti brought props too. props to you patti .

>> there you go. two opinions.

>> al tried to take that as a tip for good service there. do you think that restaurants would want to go in this direction and wouldn't this be another way for them to raise prices? and how would you know what was going to tip and what wasn't really a premium on the food.

>> yes. i think it's very complicated because i like i said this is so engrained in our culture. when europeans come here they don't tip because it's engrained in their culture not to tip. that's why my servers say there's europeans here can we add a tip and i have to tell them, no, we can't. it's a very complicated issue. there's no easy answers but it's a trend and it will work in certain places but i don't think it's going to happen here any time soon overall.

>> it's a good debate to have today over dinner.

>> over dinner at donatella.