When "master sushi chef" Akifumi Sakagami opens the New York branch of his famed Ginza Onodera in December, the restaurant will join a small but growing number of establishments that forgo a custom that's normally central to the American dining experience: tipping. Like at Onodera's locations in Honolulu, Tokyo, and elsewhere, the Manhattan outpost will adopt a service-included pricing system.
The sushi omakase — to be enjoyed at the 16-seat counter or at a table — is expected to cost somewhere around $300 to $350, says Steve Hall of Hall PR, who represents the restaurant. If that turns out to be true, Onodera will rank as one of the city's most expensive sushi bars after Kurumazushi ($300) and Masa ($450), neither of whose prices reflect service. Hall said many of the details are still being worked out so it's not yet clear whether Onodera will offer more affordable options, as is the case in Hawaii, where dinner costs $160, $200, or $250.
While tipping is not customary in Japan, service-included policies are still in the minority in New York, even at Japanese restaurants. Sushi Yasuda famously did away with gratuities in 2013; other Big Apple institutions where tipping isn't necessary include Per Se, The Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare, Atera, Dirt Candy, and, as of this week, Craft, but only during lunch.
More New York restaurants are expected to switch to service-included systems in the coming year to help cope with rising labor costs. The state's tipped minimum wage, which is what waiters and bartenders make before tips, will rise by $2.50 to $7.50 in January; operators can avoid the impact of that law by raising prices, banning tips, and paying their service-staff the full minimum or more.
Onodera will also open a West Hollywood branch in 2016.