Another change-up is headed to Eleven Madison Park next month. Roughly half a year after reopening with an all-vegan menu, Daniel Humm’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant has announced that tipping will return to its dining room in February after five years of operating as a gratuity-free restaurant.
In an email to customers on Friday, the Flatiron District restaurant announced that worker tips would not be included in its $335 — before wine and beverage pairings — menu price beginning on February 3. The change, the restaurant claims, will result in “more competitive” wages for its dining room and kitchen staff during the ongoing pandemic.
“The cost of operating a restaurant in Manhattan has never been higher,” Eleven Madison Park wrote in the email to restaurant customers. “As ever, our priority is to find ways to support our team; the individuals whose heart, dedication, and significance to this restaurant cannot be overstated.”
It’s not clear whether the restaurant’s $335 price point, which is currently inclusive of service, will change as a result of the announcement or if reservations booked beyond February 3 will now exclude tipping. Multiple users on Reddit claim to have contacted the restaurant by email and been told the pricing will remain the same. Eater has reached out to Eleven Madison Park for more information.
The reversal comes amid growing calls at the state and national levels to eliminate tipping, as the practice has shown gender and racial disparities in pay among restaurant staff. With restaurant revenues down during the pandemic, though, Eleven Madison Park claims that shifting to a tipped model will result in higher pay for its dining room workers, while allowing the restaurant to increase wages for employees in its kitchen.
“Like many of our peers, we originally embraced this model in an effort to ease the historic, often glaring financial stress between those that work in the kitchen and those in the dining room, while also removing the transaction from the guest experience,” Eleven Madison Park shared in the email. “After years of using this system, we learned that it does not positively provide for anyone in this new normal.”
Eleven Madison Park eliminated tipping from its dining room in 2016, following in the footsteps of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group and raising its prices by roughly 30 percent, from $225 to $295 for its 12- to 15-course menu at the time. As the pandemic wears on, however, Meyer and others have walked back those policies, claiming that their employees would be better off in the short term receiving tips.
Meyer, who reinstated tipping at USHG restaurants in July 2020, said at the time that staff wages would increase by roughly 25 percent on average as a result of the change.
In light of those changes, a number of smaller, independent operators have managed to uphold the tipless business models they launched in recent years. Dirt Candy, Amanda Cohen’s vegan tasting menu restaurant, eliminated tipping from its dining room in February 2015, while Brooklyn businesses Kit and Love, Nelly have both operated without tips since opening during the pandemic.