Manhattan's Sushi Yasada made news when they announced they were abolishing tips for the front of the house. (While not a well-known restaurant outside of New York it's very highly regarded in its hometown.) Matt Yglesias at Slate picked up on the story and ran with it in a fantastic screed against tipping, including this quote:
The real problem is that restaurants don’t pay their employees a living wage. The federal “tip credit” allows restaurants to pay their tipped employees as little as $2.13 per hour, as long as tips make up the shortfall—which turns a customer into a co-employer. Although federal and state law requires restaurants to ensure that tips bring employees up to minimum wage, few diners know that
Matt made a lot of great points including hitting on tipping's history of racism. He did fail to note another problem I've seen, though: the way servers are paid often creates a rift in organizations between the hourly crew that are paid with tips and those that aren't. They know what each other makes and it can sometimes be orders of magnitude different.
More chefs and restauranteurs around New York—heavyweights like Tom Colicchio and David Chang—have now joined the anti-tipping conversation (Grub Street compiled tweets here). Is this just talk, or is something going to happen?