[UK] Carluccio's wait staff object to new tipping policy

Italian restaurant chain Carluccio’s has upset its waiting staff with a new tipping policy which is losing them hundreds of pounds a month, The Sunday Times reports.

Now front-of-house staff are joining the Unite union in the hope of increasing pressure on Carluccio’s to reverse the new policy, which gives managers a larger cut of tips. Carluccio’s made a pre-tax loss of £23.7m in 2018. Some of its staff said they had experienced a cut in real pay of up to £400 a month as a result of the change.

One staff member reportedly said, “It’s a massive pay cut for waiters, especially when floor hours are being dropped as well.” An employee at a Carluccio’s restaurant in Cardiff said, “Most of it is going to managers now.”

Prior to the policy change, waiting staff got 65 per cent of credit and debit card tips, the rest was shared between bar and kitchen staff. Now, tips are divided according to the number of hours worked and shared with managers.

Staff complain that managers may work longer hours so this system unfairly weights the apportioning of tips towards managers. Waiting staff continue to keep any cash tips left by customers.

Dave Turnbull - a Unite officer - said the union was canvassing employees and intends to approach Carluccio’s with its findings. “Money is being transferred from minimum-wage workers to higher-paid staff,” he said. “Some people are saying they are £200 a month worse off or more. You can’t afford that on a minimum wage.”

Carluccio’s is one of the casual dining chains feeling the pressure of changing consumer tastes and rising costs. In 2018 through a company voluntary arrangement, it reduced the number of UK restaurants from 103 to 74.

In 2018 restaurant tipping policies came under scrutiny after brands like TGI Fridays and Pizza Express were criticised for unfair policies. Prime minister at the time Theresa May launched a review.

Mark Jones - chief executive of Carluccio’s - said, “Our independent...committee has come up with a scheme that I believe to be one of the fairest in the industry, and the company makes no profit from it whatsoever. We don’t put a service charge on our food, and our customers are free to leave cash.” He added that Carluccio’s tipping policy was posted on its website.

According to recent accounts, the highest-paid director at the company received £210,000.