.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The tipping policy of local restaurant chains needs reform

Pizza Express is one of my favourite chain restaurants. It regulaly forms part of my Saturday night-out and occasionally I also go to the one in Cardiff Bay for lunch or, if I am staying in Cardiff, for an evening meal. Last night was no exception, as I went with my wife for a meal in their Castle Street branch after watching Mission Impossible in the Odeon Cinema.

The food was as good as ever and the service was exceptional. Our waitress was friendly, chatty and very attentive. Naturally, I wanted to tip her for her good service and her colleagues for their contribution to my positive experience. However, although I paid my bill with a credit card, I made a point of handing over my tip in cash, and with good reason.

It has been widely reported that Pizza Express is one of the restaurant chains which levy an administration fee on any tips paid to staff via a credit card. In their case every £1 given as a tip using this method sees 8p deducted by management.

Ask is another Swansea restauarant whose parent company imposes this policy. Other restaurant chains with branches elsewhere in South Wales and who have a similar policy include Zizzi, whilst Café Rouge, Bella Italia, Belgo, Strada and Giraffe all deduct 10%.

Wagamama, Pizza Hut and TGI Friday all take nothing. The Restaurant Group, which owns Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquitos and Garfunkels, used to charge 10% but dropped this policy several years ago.

My special disapprobation however, is reserved for Las Iguanas, who have just opened a restaurant in Swansea. According to this article in today's Observer they go a step further, actually charging their staff for waiting tables.

The paper says that Las Iguanas, who serve Latin American food at 41 branches in the UK, and the Caribbean chain Turtle Bay, which has 19 restaurants, operate a policy that requires staff to pay back to their employer 3% of the table sales they generate on each shift. That figure rises to 5.5% in Las Iguanas’s London restaurants.

So if a waiter sells £1,000 of food and drinks in an evening, they have to pay £30 back to the restaurant in cash at the end of the night. At Las Iguanas’s London restaurants, the payback would total £55. The money is meant to be paid by waiters from their pot of tips but, because it bears no relation to how much a waiter actually takes in tips, it can wipe out his or her entire income from gratuities in a busy night.

According to the paper's research in one week this year Las Iguanas took £34,000 from its servers across all its branches from the sales charge. If this represents a typical week, over a year it would amount to £1.8m.

As a customer I am very conscious that if I boycotted restaurants who top-sliced their staff's tips and gratuities then I would be putting jobs at risk. That is why I make a point of tipping in cash and I would encourage others to do so as well.

Las Iguanas' policy is not so easily crcumvented though and so we need to bring pressure to bear to stop them imposing a levy on staff. That might be made more doable by the fact that it has just been sold to the chain that owns Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Belgo.

In addition we need to campaign to ensure that the voluntary code of practice for restaurants that was meant to tackle some of the worst tipping policies and which was introduced in 2009 is given some statutory force, as it is clearly not working.

This code includes the stipulation that businesses will clearly display on their premises prior to the point of purchase or choice their policy relating to mandatory and discretionary service charges, tips, gratuities and cover charges, and make this accessible.

In the meantime I would urge anybody who eats in a chain restaurant to find out what the tipping policy of that establishment is first and then tip accordingly to the maximum benefit of the staff. After all most of them are on minimum wage and rely on those tips to raise their standard of living.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?