Annisa, the Greenwich Village purveyor of foie gras soup dumplings and tasting menus, has become the latest New York restaurant to raise wages and eliminate tipping. The change went into effect about a month ago.
Prices are inclusive of service, reflecting the full cost of what it takes to pay waiters (and kitchen staffers) a full hourly wage. No additional surcharges, aside from tax, are levied on the bill. Guests are not expected to leave gratuities.
"Historically, there has been a significant wage disparity between the waiters and kitchen employees and our hope is that this new approach is an essential step in closing a gap that has existed for far too long," Chef Anita Lo tells Eater via email. She declined to answer questions regarding how much waiters or cooks would be paid under the new model.
Waiters in New York City, on average, earn about $14.44/hour after tips, according to the state Department of Labor, though experienced servers at high-end establishments can easily earn twice that or more. Cooks, in turn, make about $13.29. The local living wage is $14.33.
Switching to a service-included policy means raising prices, which Lo said she did by about 25 to 28 percent. "For many years we have tried to keep our prices as low as we possibly could," Lo writes, "but with the cost of ingredients going up coupled with the Affordable Healthcare Act, rent, and tax increases, there has been extraordinary pressure on Manhattan's independent restaurant operators."
Annisa's seven-course tasting menu is now $155, up 31 percent from $118 (or really, 15 percent since you don't need to tip anymore). The five-course tasting is $115. For those ordering a la carte, starters, with the exception of a $13 salad, are $22 to $28. Mains run $39 (for the grape-leaf wrapped bluefish) to $49 (for miso-marinated sablefish).
How's the dining room reacting to these changes? "So far, we been very pleasantly surprised by the show of support from diners--including our regulars and new customers," writes Lo.
Eliminating tipping, a revolutionary stance in New York as late as a year ago, is becoming increasingly commonplace as restaurants want to cope with the state's rising minimum wages, among other regulatory burdens.
Danny Meyer announced he was doing away with tipping at all 13 of his city restaurants last fall, and since then a slew of other high-profile establishments have followed, including Eleven Madison Park, Momofuku Nishi, Masa, Gabe Stulman's Fedora, and most of Andrew Tarlow's Brooklyn restaurants. Other New York restaurants where diners don't have to leave gratuities include Thomas Keller's Per Se, Atera, Brooklyn Fare, Sushi Yasuda, Bruno, Dirt Candy, and Craft at lunch.