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No tips—service won't suffer: Top chef Colicchio

Restaurateur and celebrity chef Tom Colicchio said Friday he's not sure whether the dining public is ready to stop tipping yet, but he's taking the first steps at his flagship Craft location to include the service charge as part of the bill.

"I already started that October 1st. We opened Craft for lunch. And at lunch, we do not require tips," said Colicchio, who's also the lead judge on the reality series "Top Chef," which can be seen on Bravo TV.

Colicchio said he's going to see how no tipping goes at lunch before expanding to dinner. "It's a little easier to sort of break in sort of a much smaller piece of our business."

The bottom of the lunch menu at Craft New York reads: "Hospitality is free! Gratuity is optional." Colicchio said he wasn't sure whether the public would fully embrace the concept, yet he touted the benefits.

"I'm still not sold if the public is ready for it yet," Colicchio pondered on CNBC's "Squawk Box," but said he'd rather pay a "straight wage to the servers," instead of having his patrons decide their pay.

Colicchio said he's not worried about waitresses and waiters providing worse service because they're not getting tips. "I'm going to pay you as a server somewhere between $20 and $30 an hour. And if you're not doing to a great job, the customer is going to tell me."

After success as co-founder of the renowned Gramercy Tavern in New York City, Colicchio started his own restaurant company, Crafted Hospitality. In 2001, he opened Craft New York, around the block from Gramercy.

Since then, he's opened Craft Los Angeles, in addition to other branded eateries, including Las Vegas-based Craftsteak at the MGM Grand and Tom Colicchio's Heritage Steak.

In 2006, Colicchio cut ties completely with Gramercy, which he helped start 12 years earlier with restaurateur Danny Meyer, to focus full-time on his Craft ventures. Colicchio sold to Meyer his stake in Gramercy, where he had also served as executive chef.

Last month, Meyer made headlines when he started phasing in a no tipping policy at all 13 restaurants of his Union Square Hospitality Group, including Gramercy and Union Square Cafe. No changes were planned at Shake Shack, the burger chain Meyer founded and spun off.

To offset paying higher wages to their staffs, Meyer and Colicchio are raising menu prices at their service-included establishments.

In making the case for no tipping at restaurants, Colicchio cited the appeal of not having to tip when using the popular ride-hailing service , Uber. He said he thinks "the younger generation is ready for this," because they're used to not tipping for an Uber car.

Taxicabs, like restaurants, need to change with the times and eliminate tipping, he concluded.

Disclosure: Bravo is owned by NBCUniversal, a sister company of CNBC.

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