David Chang & Danny Meyer sued over no-tipping policy

12 October, 2017 by
Annabelle Cloros

US restaurant players including David Chang (Momofuku), Danny Meyer (Union Square Hospitality Group) and Tom Colicchio (Craft Hospitality) are being sued by a diner over a no-tipping policy utilised in the chefs’ restaurants.

Will Guidara and Daniel Humm from Eleven Madison are also named as defendants alongside restaurateurs Andrew Tarlow and Gabriel Stulman.

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The proposed lawsuit is seeking class-action status and has been filed in a California federal court by a diner who claims the no-tipping policies are “part of a conspiracy to charge [diners] more for their food”, reports Law360.

The lawsuit accuses Meyer of instigating “secret meetings” with 15 chefs in 2014 to encourage restaurateurs to adopt no-tipping policies with the goal to steal tips from employees and increase menu prices to profit themselves.

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According to the suit:

The ongoing conspiracy unlawfully transfers millions of dollars from customers and servers to restaurant owners in violation of federal and state antitrust laws. Participating restaurants and a compliant media have portrayed the no-tipping/higher prices movement as intended to promote social justice and equality, while the real aim and effect is greater profit at the expense of workers and consumers.

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The groups are yet to comment on the lawsuit aside from Union Square Hospitality Group, who provided the following statement via email to Eater.

“We undertook the challenging and lonely journey of introducing Hospitality Included to create clear and transparent growth paths for our people, while beginning to address the decades-long growth of inequality among restaurant professionals. We believe hospitality can and should be a viable career with competitive wages, and we are more committed than ever to Hospitality Included getting us there.”

However, Stulman and Tarlow reinstated tipping at Fedora four months after they adopted the policy in early 2016.

Chang also returned to traditional tipping models after establishing Momofuku Nishi as a no-tipping establishment.

The lawsuit cites Tweets between the chefs discussing the move as proof of collusion, along with quotes Meyer provided to reporters regarding menu prices.

The lawsuit is open to diners who ate at the defendants’ restaurants while the no-tipping policy was in place. The suit also demands restaurants to repay plaintiffs an amount equal to three times their gratuity-included bill, plus interest and legal fees, and to “withdraw from the conspiracy”.

Image credit: Las Vegas Weekly