The French Laundry
Credit: Deborah Jones

This American custom has always been a hot topic. Is it an obligatory service charge, or an optional reward for good service? (Adding to the confusion for travelers is that much of the world has no culture of tipping.) The question has gotten more complicated in the wake of larger debates about unlivable minimum wages and income inequality. Some restaurants have done away with tipping in exchange for higher salaries or set service fees. It will be a while before a groundswell transforms an entire industry—but the question is, should it? Here are opinions from both sides.

“I would be ecstatic if I could make comparable money to what I make now and no longer have to see each customer and table as a commodity (and instead, approach each as a person).” —An anonymous server, on

“No more tips. Our prices now include service so we can pay all our employees a living wage.” —From the menu at Camino, in Oakland, one of a handful of bay area restaurants that have recently eliminated tipping

“I think you can do both. Give everyone a living wage, and if the service is exceptional, they deserve to have that acknowledged with a tip.” —Sue Yee, Facebook

“I believe that I would be in a better place—as a diner, and as a human—if pay decisions regarding employees were simply left up to their employers, as is the custom in virtually every other industry, in pretty much every civilized corner of the earth." —Elizabeth Gunnison Dunn, on

“Without tipping in this current environment, I fear we would be just a stone’s throw away from inflicting the same kind of poverty on servers that is endured by the employees at Walmart… So until salaries are generous, tip or die.” —Ty Batirbek-Wenzel, in the New York Times’ “Room for Debate”

A Few U.S. Restaurants that Have Banned Tipping

Sushi Yasuda, New York City

William Street Common, Philadelphia

Counter 3. Five. VII, Austin, Texas

Bar Marco, Pittsburgh

French Laundry, Yountville, California

Duende, Oakland, California