Tom Colicchio: 4 thoughts on tipping in the restaurant industry

Top Chef Tom Colicchio was one of the first restaurant owners to ban smoking from their restaurants, but he's not entirely onboard with the whole no-tipping trend... yet. Bloomberg had a fun little Q&A with him, and we wanted to share some of the highlights of his thoughts about the tipping culture of the restaurant industry.

You can read the full interview here.

On the culture of tipping

There are recent studies that the amount of money that someone makes from tips from a gratuity has nothing to do with service. It has more to do with the color of their skin, their accent, their gender, whether they're flirtatious. And my feeling is that I shouldn't allow 100 different people to make a decision on how my employees are compensated, which is what we're doing.

On restaurant workers as professionals

Restaurant groups, not just my group and Danny's group, but people like Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, we're trying to make our trade one that is considered professional. And you don't rely on tips if you're a professional. If you're a doctor, someone's not going to tip you.

On why he hasn't adopted no-tipping entirely

At Craft, if I were going to pay my servers an hourly wage that is on [a] par with what they're currently making, it would be in the neighborhood of $34 an hour. So back waiters or bussers in the range of $22. They're making a good wage because of tips. Now, we do away with tips. The only way to fund that would be through raising prices. If the average tip is about 20 percent, we still have to raise prices 23 percent, because then you're going to push up wages for everyone else. If I were to do it tomorrow, it puts me at a competitive disadvantage to someone who is just shopping online looking at prices. If everyone does it, then I think we'll see some change.

On the future of tipping

I really believe that the younger generation, Millennials who are going out to eat, they're used to not leaving tips. If you look at companies like Uber, I love the fact that I can walk out of the car and not worry about a tip. So I think it's going to change, and I think 10 years from now we're going to look back and go, "Oh, God, do you remember when we used to tip?" Just like now we say, "Remember when you used to smoke in a restaurant?"

As a Millennial, I have no idea what Colicchio is talking about us "used to not leaving tips." The whole no-tip thing is relatively new and most of us are adults who are used to tipping. He's right that not having to deal with tips with Uber is pretty nice (though that may be changing in some states). Less math is tended to be greeted with smiles.

Colicchio seems to be standing in the middle of this compensation debate. He obviously wants to change how his staff is compensated but realizes that unless the entire industry moves with him (aka, a change of culture) than a no-tipping method isn't going to work.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or email us.