Tipping is an altogether unfortunate custom in the United States. One that, in the end, satisfies no one. Neither restaurant owners, servers, certainly not busboys, especially not kitchen staff, nor I are happy with the current arrangement. In her article on the matter, Why Tipping Should Be Outlawed, Elizabeth Gunnison Dunn gave a solid list of evidence in support of the elimination of discretionary gratuity and its unequal distribution. (see point number six) Wholesale changes to the system are in order.
Camino restaurant in Oakland was highlighted recently for A Revolution In Tipping, after instituting a "No Tips" policy. Including the cost of service in menu prices, and spreading the funds among all staff members is not a new strategy, but one that has yet to become mainstream. Similar trailblazing has proven to be a controversial and high-risk maneuver, resulting in potential short-term discomfort, and intense scrutiny for operators and employees. However, as chef-owner Russell Moore stated in the Camino article, employees that are not comfortable with innovation of this nature may not be a good fit in the first place. And consumers that are unwilling to support included service might be happier dining on fast food. Would even Mr. Pink object to outstanding service being included in the price of a meal? I say remove the guesswork and awkwardness, and let the staff concentrate on delivering excellent service.
Bold moves like Moore's are sure to have impact, and will hopefully lead the way to an overhauling of restaurant service in the U.S. I would revise the statement on their site above, slightly. Maybe, "our price$ now include $ervice $o our employee$ can focu$ completely on your $ati$fying experience". As it is, Camino's policy is a big step toward breaking up the gloomy cloud surrounding this aspect of dining out.