While I can't vouch for official policy at all of the many Japanese steakhouses across the country, Kanpai Japanese Steak and Seafood House in Winston-Salem made headlines last week when it banned a bad tipper from ever eating there again.
"We can't keep continuing to serve her anymore because the servers and chefs are not willing to serve her," manager Michael Lam told a local television station.
Monica Covington clearly wasn't leaving bad tips because she was so dissatisfied with her experience at Kanpai. According to reports, she's dined there multiple times, and seems to be intent on remaining a customer. After she was refused service, she collected hundreds of signatures on a petition accusing the restaurant of unfairly standing between her and her teppanyaki.
Like many bad tippers, Covington apparently assumed it was her right to forgo tipping. But she forgot that restaurants also have the right to turn her away.
It's a right that's not exercised too frequently, partly because restaurant owners risk raising the specter of a civil rights violation. (It didn't go unnoticed in Winston-Salem -- a city with a long history of fractured race relations -- that Covington was black.) In my experience as a server, the only guests I've seen ejected from restaurants are those who've publicly engaged in illegal activities. Managers will typically usher out patrons who use drugs, have sex or hit someone in the dining room – all of which happen in even the finest establishments.
But perhaps it's time to shoo away bad tippers with the same vehemence. If restaurant owners can't find money in their budgets to pay servers a decent wage, shouldn't they require guests to pick up the slack? Or at least make the most notorious offenders feel unwelcome? A restaurant isn't a public place like a school, where everyone's guaranteed admission no matter how badly they behave. Kudos to Kanpai for remembering that.