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Controversy Magnet Eleven Madison Park to Raise Prices Following Reports of Low Staff Pay

The tasting menu will jump by $30 to $365 per person starting in August

A server decloches the vegan caviar service at Eleven Madison Park.
The newly vegan tasting menu at Eleven Madison Park is going up to $365 per person.
Via Getty Images

Eleven Madison Park, the once heralded fine dining palace that has attracted attention in its current vegan era for withering critical reviews and allegations of harsh working conditions, is raising the price of its tasting menu in August.

The pricing change will help the restaurant offset higher vegetable and vendor costs, in addition to providing for higher wages for back-of-house workers, according to a spokesperson for Eleven Madison. The move comes on the heels of a detailed Insider story on low pay at the restaurant and reports of a scrapped raise last fall.

Dinner in chef Daniel Humm’s main dining room will jump by $30 to $365 per person. That’s technically the first time in three years that the restaurant has pushed up the base price of the tasting, but Eleven Madison also reinstated tipping earlier this winter — an effective 20 percent price hike — and increased optional wine pairing prices.

After tip, but before tax, the menu will cost $438 per person.

A spokesperson for Eleven Madison says the price increase will allow for a 7.5 percent hourly pay increase on average before the onset of August dinner service. “This will be our third wage increase for culinary employees within the last 14 months – a 21 percent pay increase overall,” the spokesperson said.

Eleven Madison said the price hike was also fueled by rising produce costs (including for button mushrooms, carrots, and celery) steeper vendor costs (such as for flowers and linens), and increasing the number of staffers.

The price increase follows an Insider report from last week stating that Eleven Madison drafted an op-ed last September about how it would raise wages at the restaurant, declaring that it paid workers “too little,” with most kitchen workers earning $15-per-hour. To allow for a hike to $20-per-hour, per that account, the restaurant planned to hike the price of its (at the time, service-included) tasting to $425, but Eleven Madison reportedly ditched the effort following a tough Times review from Pete Wells. Some employee wages presumably went up when the restaurant’s no tipping policy went into effect in January, but the $20 minimum was not instituted, according to Insider. Humm said at a conference earlier this week that wages have since gone up to $17 to $18 an hour.

The living wage in Manhattan or Brooklyn for a single person with no children is $25.42-per-hour, per an MIT calculator. Cooks in the city earn a median pay of $19.42-per-hour, according to the New York State labor department, with the top 10 percent earning just under $25 per hour.

The full tasting will now run $943 for two after tax and 20 percent tip — a $100-plus increase from earlier this year during the no-tipping regime. For a full blown dinner with wine pairings (which now cost $195 per person, up $20), dinner for two will cost $1,446. That’s nearly a $170 per person increase from this winter, or over $330 more for two.

Rising food and labor costs — alongside global supply chain issues and sky-high fuel prices — have been pushing up the price of dining out throughout the city, with some of the steepest increases coming at the city’s toniest establishments. But outside of Masa Takayama’s exorbitant sushi den at the Deutsche Bank Center in Midtown, or Sushi Noz on the Upper East Side, few New York restaurants appear to have raised their prices as dramatically as Eleven Madison this year. It’s also fair to say few other restaurants have been the subject of such intense scrutiny as Humm’s celebrated institution.

In addition to the Wells review, I penned a negative-leaning critique of the vegan menu, while Eater’s Jaya Saxena called the venue’s $300 takeout box “nothing special,” branding it a “mostly fine, single day’s worth of eating, at the cost of what most people spend on groceries over the course of a few weeks.” Journalist Alicia Kennedy, in turn, authored a Bon Appetit essay critical of allegations of working conditions and food waste at the restaurant, partly stemming from a separate Insider report — which Eleven Madison disputed — on the restaurant’s first year as a mostly vegan spot.