This week’s Caterer magazine (10th Feb 2017) includes a compelling piece by Bob Cotton and Miles Quest on the damage our industry has done to itself by failing in some cases (we don’t know how many) to pay the National Living Wage and in some cases (again, we don’t know how many) failing to distribute service charges to their staff in a fair way.
I am sorry to say that a high profile restaurateur made matters worse recently by attempting to defend the latter practise on the grounds that it’s the only way to keep his business afloat, and the former on the grounds that he simply didn’t know it was happening. This isn’t good enough if we want to attract bright people into the hotel and catering trade at a time of high employment in this country.
As the authors of the article say, transparency is key to restoring any faith the public may still have in the way service charges are handled. Various codes of conduct have been suggested but at the moment each business does things its own way, with some abusing the system appallingly while others go to great lengths to ensure their teams are properly rewarded.
It is regrettable that such a thing should be necessary, but I believe the time has come for all establishments to declare in writing (for customers and staff to plainly see) what they do with any service charges they collect. The best are already doing this. For the sake of our industry’s reputation, others must follow without delay.