Las Iguanas, a chain serving 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.
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.
This looks like a codification of an American practice and the problem is with the codification, not the practice. It also, from my understanding of what used to be the law at least, looks to me to be illegal.
The American idea is that the waiter hands over 10-15% of their tips to the bartender(s) and in some places something similar to the busboys (if the restaurant uses them) or the kitchen possible. So, 20-30% of tips go off to the other staff who are not directly tipped by the customers.
This works largely on the honour system and the enforcement is of course that tables get bussed more slowly, drinks prepared more sloppily, to those who don’t tip out. And the crucial point is that it’s not linked to sales, but to tips received. Someone double tips, then all share in the bounty, someone stiffs, then all suffer.
The basic idea is fine: because of course “you didn’t build that” as the waiter, even if you’re the direct point of contact and major determinant of what the tip is going to be.
It’s the codification that’s at fault here: linking it to sales is one problem. The other is the legality of enforcing it. Tips, in English law, belong to the waiters. The moment management starts to insist that they control the distribution of them (rather than just saying “this is what we do around here”) then that’s obviously not the waiters’ property any more. And if they’re collecting this sum and then redistributing it according to management priorities then, well, as I say, I would at least prima facie consider this to be illegal.
And yes, many years ago, I did quit a job over exactly this point.