The service charge row rumbles on with Côte and Las Iguanas under fire service charge row continues to rumble on as Côte and Bill’s are accused of pocketing not just a percentage of gratuities but the entire amount. And Las Iguanas and Turtle Bay come under fire for effectively forcing staff to ‘pay to work’.

Both restaurant groups require staff to pay the company three per cent of the table sales they generate each shift. Or in the case of Las Iguanas’s London sites, 5.5%. The payments come out of waiters’ tips, but if staff don’t earn enough tips then it comes out of their wage packets.

Meanwhile a member of Côte staff blew the whistle on its employer’s practice of retaining all service charges and barring waiters from keeping cash tips – claims that the French brasserie chain vehemently denies. The group admits to taking the 12.5% service charge, but says it evenly distributes gratuities among staff. Further revelations in the Evening Standard today (25 August) also accuses Bill’s of the same practice.

The Observer reported that it had obtained figures showing Las Iguanas took £34,000 from its servers across the UK through the sales charge in just one week this year. Which would equate to £1.8 million a year, if that number is typical. The South-American influenced chain would not comment on the figures.

If true, it makes the revelations a couple of weeks ago that PizzaExpress were pocketing 8% of the service charge on card payments seem like rather small potatoes. Perhaps another Unite picket fence is on the cards? This time outside branches of Côte, Las Iguanas and Turtle Bay?

Now even Business secretary Sajid Javid MP has waded in on the tipping and service charge controversy, saying that he did not believe the system was fair, and would be looking more closely at the issue. Perhaps he would care to read our thoughts on the subject? Ditch tipping altogether. Tell us your thoughts.

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