The steakhouse chain Miller & Carter is facing criticism over a new policy that affects waiting staff's tips to supplement the wages of chefs and other kitchen employees.
Simon Cobb, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
According to reports, waiting staff at Miller & Carter, part of the Mitchells & Butlers pub group, now have up to 2% of their sales deducted, which impacts their overall earnings. This measure allowed front-of-house employees to share their tips with the kitchen staff. However, employees and the Unite union have raised concerns, stating that the deducted amounts sometimes surpass the tips received, leading to significant income reductions for the waiting staff.
Some staff members allege these deductions are so substantial that their earnings have fallen below the minimum wage during certain shifts. The tip-sharing policy, recently implemented across several Miller & Carter locations, was decided through staff votes on the distribution of service charges and tips received via cash or card.
The specifics of the policy can vary from one restaurant to another. Still, it's noted that about one-third of Miller & Carter's 124 outlets have adopted a system where tip distribution is based on a percentage of sales. In some establishments, there's a cap on the maximum daily amount deducted from the tips, but this doesn't prevent instances where the deductions exceed the tips collected, particularly during shifts with lower sales or customer tipping.
Previously, tips were shared among staff through a fixed "plate fee" or a portion of the service charge. The new method, based on sales percentages, has reportedly led to waiting staff losing out on hundreds of pounds monthly, a situation compounded by increasing living expenses.
Miller & Carter Steakhouse in Talke by Mat Fascione, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The issue is exacerbated by the unreliability of tip amounts, as the company doesn't add a service charge to bills for groups smaller than eight, and fewer customers are leaving cash tips following a pandemic-related shift towards card payments.
In response to these claims, Miller & Carter issued a statement assuring that staff are not required to fund tips from their wages and are paid at or above the national minimum wage. The company highlighted the flexibility of the tipping policies, with 70 different variations across their venues, reflecting decisions made by team votes at each site. They also emphasised that restaurant general managers were not influencing these voting processes.
However, some evidence suggests that staff voting options were limited, and the policies that ended up being selected often favoured kitchen staff and junior management, who would benefit from them, over the wait staff. The fear of losing their jobs or facing disciplinary actions has left many employees apprehensive about speaking against these practices.
Unite representative Bryan Simpson expressed severe concerns about the policy, indicating that it places an unfair burden on wait staff by reducing their dependable income and potentially pushing their wages below the minimum standard. The union views the policy as a flawed solution to the broader issue of inadequate pay for all staff categories within the company.