In 1965, at "Joe's" in Reading, Pennsylvania, my grandparents abandoned the standard tipping model. They believed in the European style of service, where are servers are at your disposal as opposed to a single waiter or waitress. They shortly discovered that servers were happier, the kitchen team was happier, and our guests were happier. Since then, we have had a flat 18% service charge added to the bill in lieu of gratuity.
When I took ownership of The Joel Palmer House in 2008, I decided to follow in their footsteps. I quickly realized that the quality of service was determined by far more than a single server. Timing in the kitchen, the speed of the bartender or sommelier, and even bussers play a crucial role in what is typically defined as "service". Unfortunately, cooks, reservationists, day-managers, gardeners, dishwashers, and admins aren't legally able to share in a traditional tip-based system, even though their generosity and hard work are just as vital to quality of your dining experience.
This year (2017) we are taking that same model into the next generation. From now on, all food and beverage prices will be based on all the standard industry cost models AND enough to make sure that all of our servers, kitchen staff, and admin people are compensated in a way that's fair, competitive, and stable.
Obviously this is a controversial issue for some people, so please feel free to reach out to me directly if you have any further questions or comments. I would also encourage you to read through some of the resources that I have linked below. Thank you.
How the Gratuity Free Movement started taking shape.
Danny Meyer, the famed New York restaurateur, paves the way:
An in-depth analysis of tipping practices, statistics, studies, and reports: