Answers to your Frequently Asked Questions

Have a question? Click here to ask it! Once answered all questions will be posted here.

Q: I noticed Union Square Events is on the Hospitality Included map! Can you briefly detail what this is anticipated to look like? 

Great question! Union Square Events is currently not a part of our Hospitality Included rollout calendar, but they are an important part of the USHG family and we wanted to included all of our businesses on our Hospitality Included map.

Q: Did the kitchen staff actually get a raise that is substantial enough to see a difference in their paychecks? Are they happy?

Our very first goal of Hospitality Included is to make a career in our kitchens more financially and professionally rewarding. While we are only starting down that path, we absolutely have been able to provide a real wage increase for the vast majority of our kitchen staff as part of Hospitality Included - a 20% raise on average. We wouldn't want to speak for anyone on our kitchen teams, and we all know there is more work to be done, but we hope that this initial step in narrowing the gap between front and back of house demonstrates our commitment to the issue.

Q: I know you've got several versions of this same topic, but I would like to add; why don't you leave the extra tip that any client leaves on the table to the server and the server tips out whomever he/she needs to tip out? Because the face they're seeing is the server's, they want to extra reward the person who so graciously made sure their experience was excellent, by making sure their food was delivered on time, etc... 

We know our service teams are exceptional at taking care of our guests, but we also know that Hospitality is a team sport. The example you provide is a perfect one! If a guest were to tip our service team generously for making sure their food was delivered on time, while that tip could only go to the service team, we know the reason it was prepared on time was because of the kitchen team, the support team, and the expositor. While 'tipping out' is one option, the motivating factor behind this change is the professionalization of our work and our industry, which 'tipping out' doesn't address!

Q: It has been openly acknowledged that a big push to induct Hospitality Included was the policy being put into place surrounded minimum wage in fast-food restaurants. A movement that is receiving less attention but is nonetheless occurring is the push to examine the legality and fairness of on-call shifts. While The NY Attorney General's Office is presently only looking into retail practices, it still feels like an issue that is relevant to our businesses. While we are looking for better ways to take care of each other with the implementation of HI, are we going to take the opportunity to reassess our present on-call system?

Yes! We are currently actively reassessing our on-call policies and hope to address them one-by-one as each business moves onto Hospitality Included.

Q: There's a lot of talk about how this new system will affect the different positions in restaurants, but there hasn't been much said about members that already receive a higher hourly like Host and Reservations teams. What changes - if any - can we expect with the introduction of Hospitality Included?

Great question! This will be a one-size-fits-one decision depending on the needs and priorities of each business. The Modern is choosing to include Hosts, Reservationists and Maitre 'd's in their revenue sharing program, which is now an option with Hosptiality Included!

Q: I keep hearing that the expectation is that FOH pay will essentially stay the same. If we average 20% in tips now, and menu prices are going up just a little over 20% but we are sharing that amount with more staff (BOH, who I agree NEEDS to be paid more) as well as distributing more unevenly among FOH employees, due to seniority and experience levels, how is it possible that we will be making the same amount and still be able to pay BOH more? This seems to not really add up to me.

We believe strongly in Enlightened Hospitality, which holds that if we prioritize taking care of each other, and then our guests, that eventually our Investors will also be taken care of as well. We are taking the long view, because we believe we do well by doing the right thing.

Q: How will HI affect Employee Dining Program?

We are watching closely to determine if any change is needed. The biggest difference is that before Hospitality Included tips were added separately on top of the Dining Program credit, and under Hospitality Included additional gratuity won't be needed.

Q: With Hospitality Included, I hope that hourly employees will be given performance goals and benchmarks to meet both quarterly and annually. I think that hourly employees should also be able to choose one or two of those goals based on their strengths and interests. In my opinion, it will keep employees engaged and motivated. It will also provide the employee with a clear idea of what it would take to get a raise or be promoted.

This is an awesome suggestion! As mentioned below, The Modern is piloting a program that we believe you'd be proud of: each position has three levels of expertise and individuals can advance both inside and across positions and roles. The classes and skills each advancement requires are published transparently to the team on their intranet. The goals suggestion is a great one, and we will share it with all of our teams.

Q: With regards to tenure, will compensation rate be the same for individuals in the same position no matter the amount of time with the restaurant? Basically, will a runner who has been with the company for 5 months be making the same amount as a runner who has been there for several years? How will performance be measured? If all tips are the same across the board it would be hard to tell if anyone is under performing. Will there actually be a program that offers raises for FOH? As of right now I am not aware of any servers getting an increase in hourly rate with out an actual promotion,which happens often in BOH. The usual reward was working busier nights. Will pay fluctuate depending on rate of business for all? And if not, what would motivate anyone to work busier nights if the same pay is offered for slow night?

There's a lot here! We'd love to share what The Modern is doing: they have created a stairstep progression system that rewards their service teams both professionally and financially. All front of house positions have three levels: 100, 200, and 300. New employees come in at the 100 level, and know exactly what it will take to advance to the 200 and 300 levels (which will include service training, culture training, education, and a Family Values review). The Modern has also chosen to move to a weekly Revenue Share program, which gets us to your last question.

What would motivate anyone to work a busier shift? This could many reasons, but hopefully the same thing that motivates us all today: the desire to grow professionally, individually and as a team!

Q: Will your seniority/longevity and the corresponding rate of pay transfer with you if you choose to move to another USHG restaurant? What if it is an instance of stepping down in position in order to move to a finer dining establishment? (I.e. a server or bartender at Marta or Blue Smoke taking a position as a Server or Backwaiter at Gramercy Tavern or The Modern.)

Great question! Compensation for any position at any of our businesses – including the Home Office – is always a combination of role and experience. Your tenure will always transfer, including with respect to benefits, to any new business. However your rate of pay and seniority could fluctuate depending on the business, role, and your expertise and skills inside that role.

Q: I have noticed some questions regarding seniority and I am concerned that those of us that are new to the company will not receive the same amount of support or incentives offered. Although we may be new to the company, we are not all new to the industry and deserve the same amount of support if not more from those above us through this transition. Please shed some light on how us newcomers will be helped to feel at home and want to stay on board through the tough or unknown times ahead while continuing to advance our careers.

Thank you for joining our team! You’re right that we have received many questions around seniority from our USHG Family, and we are so fortunate to have a company and a culture with such deep roots. I want to assure you, though, that we are doing this for all, and every member of our team will receive the same level of support and commitment to development.

One of the great opportunities presented by this change is that we will have more ways and opportunities to reward skill and merit at all levels, regardless of tenure. We are counting on your growth and development to power our culture!

Q: As you stated, additional gratuity will not be refused. In such a case, how would that additional gratuity be divided up amongst the staff for the shift and who would decide the division? Further, would the additional gratuity be divided amongst all staff including boh, foh and salary staff?

We have received many versions of this question. One of the reasons we are moving to all-inclusive menu pricing is that there many legal restrictions around who can receive gratuities and how it must be distributed. While we are still ironing out the specifics, it would be fair to say that any additional gratuity would need to be – legally – distributed to a similar group as the way tips are pooled and distributed now.

Q: My concern are the porters. Currently at our location (Art Food) they make less then $15.00 per hour. From all conversations thus far, the only non-tipped positions that are being considered for a higher hourly wage are the BOH kitchen staff. Will there be conversations/considerations made for increasing porter hourly wages as well?

Thank you for letting us clarify this! Inside USHG we use a couple different terms for the same groups: Back of House, BOH, Kitchen, for one example. We are intending on raising the base hourly wage for all of our kitchen or BOH positions, including porters.

Q: This is potentially off topic but an issue that has popped up repeatedly for myself and other co-workers in my situation. Is there any discussion or incentive to offer staff part time or full time child care options? I am familiar with large companies that offer their employees essentially stipends to use at specific day care sites for emergency situations or scheduled work situations. Thanks in advance for your time.

This is not off topic at all – this entire discussion is around how we can provide professional growth for our people. We are always looking for additional benefits that enrich the lives of our people and we are adding to our suite of benefits all the time. We will absolutely explore this idea and see what the options are and if it is something that is possible. We will post the update here when we have an answer (though know it may be a couple months). Thank you for the suggestion!

Q: Two part question. One refers to a response to one of the previous questions. I am a little confused about the "philosophically opposed" to the tipping system. Are not some of the more popular USHG restaurants based on tipping systems? Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Maialino, former restaurant Eleven Madison Park. Recently opened properties at Whitney Museum were set up with tipping systems. Why did it take 20 years to even start the conversation about changing if in fact you are so "philosophically opposed" to it? It almost feels like the new system is reaction to rising wages all across the city; set to protect restaurant profit. And will the new pay rates be hourly or are we looking at a set weekly rate?

Correct, we are philosophically opposed to the tipping system. You are also right when you say that it has taken nearly 30 years for us to put our foot down and say enough of this antiquated system.

Our evolution over the past 30 years has come through education, both our own and others, but also through watching first-hand the negative effect this system has had on our own people. All too often, our servers are at the whims of guests who either don’t understand tipping (imagine so often tables from other countries) or guests who use tipping as a way to threaten our people and their livelihood (imagine when the food takes too long). We are committed to taking care of each other above all and believe that we know better than anyone that we are a group of passionate and caring professionals.  We refuse to rely on our guests to determine what our teams are worth, and we are ready to take on the responsibility of rewarding our teams financially and professionally.

Additionally, we are committed to crafting a solution that is a net positive for all of our people, that raises wages more than any legislation, and that provides more professional and financial growth than the current system allows. While rising wages around the city provide an opportunity for us for us to make this change, we see those as merely a starting point. And while we always want to be profitable, we believe the best way to do that is to take care of our people first. Finally, we have heard a lot of suggestions and ideas around what our compensation could look like and we are currently working towards a solution that would combine an hourly rate with an ability to share in the business’s success.

Q: As a front server, there are many guests who graciously tip more than the average 20 percent to thank me for my service. How will all-inclusive menu-pricing accommodate those guests who choose to go above and beyond in their gratuity?

We are committed to changing the mindset around tipping. We strongly believe that there is a better way to reward our teams, professionally and financially, and the practice of tipping itself works against those goals and diminishes the professional talent and skill of our teams and the idea of hospitality as a team sport. While we won’t turn away any additional gratuity, we are philosophically opposed to the idea of tipping and won’t be including a tip line on our checks.

One of the suggestions we continue to hear from you is to find a way to reward the entire team on those “big nights” while also minimizing the risk associated with those slow nights, shifts, or tables that choose to leave less than the customary 20%. We love this feedback and are actively looking to craft a solution that can do just that.

Q: Because USHG is so well known within NYC, how is the company planning on sharing this information with the public, i.e. what's the marketing plan?

Educating our guests, and making sure we practice hospitality by having this change happen with them, rather than to them, will be key to our success

Right now we are sharing what we plan to do and why with our teams, while also listening intently to your ideas and questions. We also know that we can't do this alone, so we are sharing our plans with industry peers, thought leaders, and stakeholders within our community. These conversations are helping shape our plans and anticipate questions that may come up when the time comes to roll it out. 

Once we have a fuller understanding of where, when, and how we will introduce this in our restaurants, we’ll announce our plan to the public. When that time comes, you can be sure we'll be working hard to ensure the public knows what we're doing and why.

Q: Who can I talk with about this great idea other than my coworkers? can I tell my friend that works at another restaurant outside USHG?

Here's a restaurant I heard about in LA that has a tip included model... http://www.brand158.com/press.aspx
And a story on NPR... http://www.dinnerpartydownload.org/tipping/

Thank you for the links! And we really appreciate this question - this conversation is happening more and more around the country and we know our people are important and respected voices. There is no hard and fast rule, but we do count on our teams to exercise their best judgement at all times and practice discretion when sharing this information outside the company. We recognize that engaging in conservation helps us prepare for the changes coming, and we need your help in thoughtfully shaping our message and preparing our teams for success, especially as we work together on the strategy for introducing Hospitality Included at our restaurants. 

Q: As one of the longest standing FOH employees at my restaurant, I'm wondering: will long-term employees be rewarded with additional compensation?

Tenure is one of many factors that will be considered as we continue to explore how we can best compensate all of our people. What is most important to us, philosophically, is that we reward – financially and professionally – our stongest performers, while also encouraging their growth and development. 

Q: As the senior member of my department, I have a huge incentive to work weekends where I will make a majority of my weekly pay. What incentives, if any will there be to keep your most experienced staff on your busiest shifts?

This is a great question! Thank you. First, it’s important that we continue to recognize and reward our senior staff and leaders. In a world without tipping we are free – and we intend – to establish a meritocracy where our best people are able to earn more. While we have surfaced and suggested several ideas to address this need, we also want your suggestions and ideas for what would be meaningful to you. Importantly, nothing has been decided yet, and we fully expect that each restaurant will find a solution that’s right for them!

Q: How does the American culture of tipping affect how we pay and advance our people?

City, State and Federal government regulations affect how we can compensate our teams. Over the past 30 years, dining room pay has increased 300% while kitchen pay has increased only 20%, yet our margins remain historically small. Menu prices have increased to cover the cost of inflation, rent and product, leaving little to reward our teams with. Additionally, tipping means that our prices are artificially low. We count on our guests to leave a tip in order to properly pay our people – a responsibility that should be ours and ours alone. Even more, tipping incentivizes taking care of our guests first, rather than each other, undermining our culture of Enlightened Hospitality.

Q: You’re asking for our feedback – will we actually have a say?

YES! In fact we’re counting on it. We are making this change entirely to take care of you – and each other – better. We want your honest feedback and we are committed to being responsive and transparent through the entire process. It can be frustrating to not have all the answers, but we hope that you see this as a demonstration of our belief in the strength of our teams as well as our commitment to do this for you and with you, not to you. We will also be seeking the feedback of our guests before we make any changes. Rest assured that we will take every step to understand the potential impact of these changes on every key stakeholder.

Q: What does this mean for me?

Our goal is the following:

  • If you are a FOH hourly employee, we are aiming to keep you neutral, and have your weekly take home pay equal or better than what your position earned during the same time frame last year
  • If you are a BOH hourly employee, we are aiming to increase your hourly wage
  • If you are a salaried employee, we are aiming to increase your compensation through a variable bonus program

But we will need to work TOGETHER to ensure that we help to educate our guests and bring them along on this journey with us since the “all‐inclusive” menu pricing will be more than what they are currently paying.

Q: How can I get involved and share feedback?

Go to one of Danny’s upcoming Town Hall Meetings. There is one scheduled for Wednesday and there will be another on the morning of September 28th, both at the MoMA. You can also share your ideas and questions on Inside.USHGNYC.com‐ and we will post daily responses and comments. Additionally, there will also be an opportunity to share your feedback in the upcoming All USHG Employee Survey in October. But most importantly, we encourage you to have direct and open conversations with your management team to offer your ideas and questions. Your management team will compile all of your feedback and will serve as a conduit to the project team at the Home Office leading this effort to represent your voice in this process.