Don't Get Me Started On...Restaurants That Take My Tips!

Staff get paid though… don’t they?

Yes. Yes we do.

However, our rate of pay (often minimum wage: £3.79/hour for under 18, £5.13/hour for under 21, £6.50/hour for 21 and over) is not representative of the demands of our job. Unsociable hours, long and demanding shifts, dealing with difficult situations… it can seem never-ending, and during periods like Christmas and Easter, unimaginably busy.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it, and I choose to do it. When a shift is going well, people are enjoying the food, and customers are genuinely pleasant and funny people – it’s a pleasure to serve, and I really enjoy working. Regulars are always great fun, and it’s so much better to be busy than not – as time flies by, and 8 hours feels like 2!

However, the actual job is not where my concern lies.

In August 2015, the Daily Mail ran an article entitled ‘War on the restaurants that pocket waiters’ tips’, discussing the proposed action by the current business secretary Sajid Javid. The article exposed this nationwide problem, and estimated that 1 in 5 restaurants do not allow tips to go directly to waiting staff. The Telegraph ran a similar article, alongside the BBC and the Guardian, exposing this issue that happens every day, everywhere. 

And this isn’t a problem that’s isolated to a few dodgy restaurants and unscrupulous hotels – it’s something that’s happening in both independent businesses and nationwide chains. And it’s not ok. Pizza Express, Turtle Bay and Côte have come under fire for their policies on tips, but it’s the actions of smaller, often independent businesses, that get forgotten by these sweeping tabloid articles.

Speaking from experience, long shifts can be exhausting, especially when it’s not going well. Receiving tips is such a special reward, and can suddenly make everything seem that little bit more worthwhile. You maintain the knowledge that you, as an individual, have helped to make the dining experience more enjoyable for that particular group.

Considering Britain in an international perspective, we are not the tipping capital of the world. That coveted title goes to our North American cousins in Canada and America, where tipping is more expected and normalised. This makes tips in Britain even more valuable, as you know that when you receive one, it clearly has been a good experience for the customer – as our views on tipping are not as extreme as our North American counterparts.

As a student who is dependent on my earnings, it is somewhat challenging when employers declare the need to withhold tips to cover costs. In a sense, I am very fortunate that it is only myself I am having to finance through waitressing, and not any others. It must be even more difficult for single parents, and those with dependents, for example. 

Taking the hard-earned tips from waiters and restaurant staff is something that is fundamentally wrong. We earned that money. Our hard work should be rewarded. Tips should be split between the waiting staff, chefs, pot washers, bar staff and any other members of front of house, and this should be done on the night of that shift, as naturally the amount of tips will depend on the nature of the service. Tips on mother’s day, for example, will be very different to that of a regular Monday night.

So next time you dine out and wish to acknowledge good service:

1.     Challenge your waiter

2.     Ask them.

3.     Do you receive tips?

4.     And please, if they say no.

5.     Put that tip back into your pocket.