Etiquette experts may quibble over the standard gratuity percentages, but it is more or less universally understood that, yes, in the United States, waitstaff make their wages off tips, and if you don't leave something extra for service, you shouldn't be dining out in the first place. But one of the city's most celebrated sushi joints, Sushi Yasuda, will no longer accept tips, and instead provides staff with higher salaries and benefits.
You see, Sushi Yasuda takes Japanese customs very seriously (which, at $24-or-so a roll, it probably should). And in keeping with these customs, they've eliminated the tip and salaried servers. "The reason we did it that way was because in Japan, that’s how it’s done," Scott Rosenburg, one of the owners, told the Times. "We thought, ‘How great would it be when you go to a restaurant not to have to think about the tip?"
Japan's not alone in its no-tipping policy; China doesn't have a tipping custom either, some countries add gratuity to the bill automatically, and others expect diners to leave a few coins behind for good service. Which, naturally, becomes frustrating for waiters in the States, who often find themselves getting stiffed on tips by overseas tourists who didn't read their Fodors guides cover-to-cover. And Sushi Yasuda's not the first restaurant in the city to try to move away from the American tipping culture; Per Se, another pricey Manhattan establishment, added a mandatory service charge a few years back, and a smattering of other spots do the same, to great debate.
But not only does Sushi Yasuda not require tips, they do not accept them, and as the Times phrases it, "It is not to be done." Though, diners who leave tips on the table don't seem to be getting them back. "Maybe they will make it up to me next time," one diner who left a $45 cash tip told the Times. Ah, well, the system's not perfect. But Sushi Yasuda's move does raise some questions about the practice of tipping in general. In an interview with Bloomberg News food critic Ryan Sutton, Rosenburg noted that tipping has become a convoluted practice in the States, and that waiters working on tips—many of whom make base salaries under minimum age—don't have a lot of financial stability.
By eliminating tipping, Rosenburg says, wait service becomes an elevated position, and produces better, more passionate employees. "Your service staff, for those who want to pursue that as an ongoing career, they have stability, they become part of a family and that’s special," he said. "You have to be all in if you’re a salaried professional. It also attracts people who are more serious about being a part of that craft and being a part of that journey."