Breaking news, fans and followers of Brooklyn-restauranteur-royal Andrew Tarlow: Following the lead of Danny Meyer, who announced in October that all 13 of his restaurants would go tip-free, the owner of Marlow & Sons, Diner, Achilles Heel, Reynard, and Roman’s revealed to Eater that he will be switching all of his restaurants over to the same system, starting next month.
In a phone interview on Monday, Tarlow shared that Roman’s, his always packed à la carte Italian restaurant in Fort Greene, would be the first to go tip-less on January 18. The new system will allow him to close the payment-gap between his wait staff and and his non-tipped cooks. As a result, menu prices will increase 20 percent, and the minimum wage of the kitchen staff will, eventually, be raised to $15/hour. All of his restaurants will shift to the new model by the end of next year.
While other restauranteurs have tried eliminating tipping at select establishments (including, all the way back in 2005, Thomas Keller, who first introduced a non-tip price tag to New York with his tasting menu service at Per Se) Tarlow is the first since Meyer to announce that his entire empire would try tip-free service on for size.
In conversation with Eater, Tarlow reported, “We’ve been talking about it for quite a few years internally. Having Danny out in front of it has been huge impetus for us to take the plunge.” Without an influential example like Meyer’s—and the necessary price increases that follow—it might have been harder for Tarlow’s patrons to swallow the price hike, especially when they are not already expecting to pay the same top dollar as one would at high-end tasting menu establishments like Per Se.
But Tarlow says one benefit of making the switch is earning the confidence of diners who feel better eating at places where they know its employees—and, in particular, the cooks making their food—are fairly compensated. As Eater explains, this is how it all breaks down:
“New York restaurants have increasingly looked to eliminating gratuities as a way to cope with the rising cost of labor. The tipped minimum for servers and bartenders goes up by $2.50 to $7.00 per hour in January. By switching those employees to a higher hourly rate and raising prices, restaurants can sidestep that increase and use the funds that would have otherwise counted as tips to raise the wages of cooks and other back-of-house employees.”
While Meyer’s tip-free system is billed “Hospitality Included,” Tarlow, with his casual Brooklyn brand, is calling his system “Gratuity free,” and he’s also designed an icon for it, which will be visible in all his establishments.
With Tarlow signed on to tip-free dining, it is potentially only a matter of time before the Brooklyn dining tide shifts overwhelming in its favor. Meanwhile, Tarlow is putting out a subtle invitation for others to join him. Any other restaurants that want to hop on board can totally co-opt his in-house designed icon, he says, which, in a cool-blue hue reads “Gratuity Free Establishment.” Tarlow has already proven successful at defining and normalizing Brooklyn cuisine—no small feat—so getting everyone to steal his little tip free insignia (and attendant pay system) could prove much easier.