Tipping policy makes waiters 'pay to work' at restaurant group

Miranda Fitzgerald

12 January 2018

A restaurant group in the south-west of England has come under fire for making its waiters ‘pay to work’ through a tipping policy that requires them to give 3% of their total table sales back to the company.

Employees of Aqua Italia told The Bristol Post that the 3% fee is non-negotiable, and waiters are meant to stump up the cash themselves if they haven’t received enough tips that night to cover it. They estimated that it amounts to staff paying a minimum of £20 to £30 every night, which they say is then put towards Aqua’s labour costs.

'I think the 3% policy is absolutely shocking,' Sam Rimmer, a former waiter at one of its Bristol branches, told the Post. 'Basically, they’re making people pay to rent a section in the restaurant – if you want to work there you have to pay.'

While covering shifts at the Milton Keynes branch, Rimmer claimed to have seen a tearful waiter being sent to an ATM to withdraw cash to cover the charges at the end of a shift. Rimmer said he quit the restaurant in October over the prospect of potentially having to hand back thousands of pounds of his hard-earned tips over the Christmas period.

'The operations manager thinks that if waiters don’t earn enough tips to cover the 3%, then they’re not doing a good job,' another member of staff, who chose to remain anonymous, was quoted saying.

The restaurant group, which has branches in Bristol, Bath, Milton Keynes, Portishead, Worthing and Lewes, lays out its tipping and payment policy in its employment contract.

Pouring further salt in their wounds the contract, as seen on The Post, jauntily states: ‘It is completely down to you on how much you receive as a tip from each table, so the better you are at working your section and charming your customers, then the better your tips are going to be.’

Imbibe contacted the Aqua Restaurant Group for comment.



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