New York's top restaurants plagued by tip trouble

Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:05pm EDT
 
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Seasoned travelers know that waiters in the United States expect tips of 15 to 20 percent -- $60 on a $300 dinner for two at one of New York's top restaurants.

What is less well known is that the money doesn't all go to the waiters and more lowly staff.

In lawsuits filed in the last three years, staff have accused dozens of New York restaurants, including many well-known ones, of stealing tips and cheating them out of wages.

Among those named in the suits are celebrity haunt Pastis; three New York restaurants co-owned by actor Robert De Niro in the global Nobu chain; Jean Georges -- which has three Michelin stars -- and other restaurants owned by French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten; and hip hop star Jay Z's 40/40 Club.

Peruvian Ivan Arias said he was happy just to have a job when he came to New York and found himself working as a busboy at the Redeye Grill, an eatery in midtown Manhattan where eight of its signature "dancing shrimp" cost $39.

But Arias, 36, said he soon realized he was being cheated out of overtime, breaks and promotions, and denied a fair share of tips.

"The conditions were not OK. They did not pay me tips. They did not pay me overtime," Arias told Reuters.

In June, a New York judge approved the first payment in a settlement totaling $3.9 million for workers at the Redeye Grill and five other restaurants owned by the Fireman Hospitality Group.   Continued...

 
<p>The Manhattan restaurant Redeye Grill is seen in New York, September 18, 2008. Seasoned travellers know that waiters in the United States expect tips of 15 to 20 percent -- $60 on a $300 dinner for two at one of New York's top restaurants. What is less well known is that the money doesn't all go to the waiters and more lowly staff. In June, a New York judge approved the first payment in a settlement totaling $3.9 million for workers at the Redeye Grill and five other restaurants owned by the Fireman Hospitality Group. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>