Last month's news that New York restaurateur extraordinaire Danny Meyer was eliminating tipping throughout his restaurant group—which includes everything from the famous fine dining joint Gramercy Tavern to the chain of popular Shake Shacks across the US—made headlines worldwide. While other, smaller restaurants have adopted the no-tipping model over the years, choosing instead to pay their servers a standard hourly wage, a trendsetter like Meyer making this move was—sorry for the impending pun—a tipping point for the US restaurant industry.
Want proof? None other than Joe's Crab Shack is following suit, announcing this week that the seafood chain has been steadily working towards removing tipping since August. Although Joe's is owned by Houston-based Ignite Restaurant Group (and was purchased from another Houston-based restaurant group, Landry's, in 2006) and was actually founded in Houston in 1991, ours is not one of the markets in which Joe's Crab Shack has eliminated tipping. Yet.
Ignite CEO Ray Blanchette said the move began in August, two whole months before Danny Meyer's big news, and has been slowly and quietly rolled out in test markets such as Indianapolis, Omaha, St. Louis and Pittsburgh. These four markets represent a small chunk of the larger Joe's empire, which now stretches across 35 states and includes 138 restaurants. As Eater pointed out today, Joe's Crab Shack appears to be the first major restaurant chain to eliminate tips, opting instead to pay its servers $14 an hour. Menu prices will be hiked by roughly 12 to 14 percent to offset the new wages, which Blanchette told investors would actually equate to lower meal prices—at least for those who regularly tip generously.
Houstonia reached out to Blanchette for further comment, including how the test run is going and when Houston can expect to see its own no-tipping policy in place at our own Joe's Crab Shacks; we'll update this post with more as it comes in.