Momofuku Founder David Chang Banned Tipping At His New Restaurant

He's the latest celebrity chef to take a stand against tipping.
Katherine Frey/The Washington Post

NEW YORK -- Momofuku founder David Chang has soured on tipping.

At his newly opened Manhattan eatery Nishi, the celebrity chef -- best known for his New York noodle shop and Milkbar bakery -- set prices to reflect the real cost of the work that goes into each dish, service included.

And no tips.

"Bottom line is we want to pay sous chefs, cooks, and dishwashers a living wage," Chang said in an interview with Lucky Peach, the food magazine he owns.

Chang is just the latest big-name restaurateur to raise wages by taking tips out of the equation. Danny Meyer, chief executive of the New York culinary titan Union Square Hospitality Group, announced plans last October to ban tipping at his 13 full-service restaurants in the city. When Amanda Cohen reopened her posh vegetarian bistro, Dirt Candy, on Manhattan's Lower East Side last February, she replaced tips with an automatic 20 percent service fee.

A photo posted by momofuku (@momolongplay) on

As Chang explained:

The real cost of selling food is not accurately reflecting the labor that’s going into it. In 2000, I got paid maybe $10 an hour. Inflation has definitely risen, but cooks’ wages haven’t. That’s one of our biggest issues. We want to be able to grow as a company so we can provide for more people. This is a way we might be able to do that. And if it doesn’t work, we can always go back to the old way.

Tipping became widespread in the 1930s, when the Great Depression thinned crowds at eateries and, for the most part, only the wealthy could afford to dine out. Cash-strapped restaurant owners slashed servers' pay and encouraged them to solicit tips from rich patrons to supplement their salaries.

CollegeHumor's Adam Conover explains it pretty amusingly in this video:

Nishi, located in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, has yet to release its menu, but, as GrubStreet notes, prices could be similar to Chang's upscale Ssäm Bar.


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