As someone who used to support themselves waiting tables, it can be very offensive how some people treat tipping. You are not renting a servant, you are paying a gratuity for the use of the table, for having someone bring you food and water, and you better be exactly as gracious as you expect them to be. There was always at least one customer who loved the idea of deciding what your salary for the evening would be, and who would push you to break and freak out on them.
Some restaurants have pushed to end tipping entirely, and instead charge more to cover an appropriate salary for their staff. This has been met with pushback—folks want to decide how much the person bringing their apps get paid! Some servers think they can make more money through tipping. But one restaurant in southern England has reportedly gone so far as to demand that servers pay them to work.
The Bristol Post reports that a restaurant called Aqua Italia is in big trouble for their controversial payment system. Allegedly, waiters have to give management three percent of their bills for the night, essentially renting tables in order to earn money. That cash generally comes out of their tips. So, if you had a customer spend a lot of money on food, but tip abysmally, you'd still have to pay the three percent on their bill.
Servers say that money is then used to pay their wages, which means they're essentially paying their own salary.
A former employee named Sam Rimmer told the Post, "I think the three percent policy is absolutely shocking. Basically they’re making people rent a section of the restaurant, if you want to work there you have to pay."
He added, "I’ve actually heard Ben (the operations manager) say they should be getting tips and if they don’t that’s their own fault."
The restaurant actually has a number of branches, and how much the policy is enforced varies, according to Rimmer. He worked in a restaurant in Whiteladies, but picked up a shift in another area and was shocked by what he witnessed.
“But I noticed it was much different in the other branches,” Rimmer said. “I covered a few shifts in Milton Keynes and the waiters would even have to pay three per cent on groups coming in for drinks. A few people having drinks don’t usually tip so a couple of bottles of wine that can add up then you have to pay three per cent of that bill out of your own pocket."
"In Milton Keynes I saw a girl in tears at the end of the shift because she hadn’t made enough in tips to pay her three per cent and the manager was making her walk to the cash point to withdraw money to pay it.”
People are calling for a boycott at Aqua Italia and asking for people to show up on the protest picket line:
Are you going to stop exploiting your workers @aquaitalia & stop taking money from their wages?You should be ashamed! @sparksyred @imajsaclaimant @BathTradeUnions This Bristol restaurant's tipping policy forces waiting staff to 'pay to work' https://t.co/fRTlbAzhCo— Unite South West (@unitesouthwest) January 13, 2018
Come on everyone - please join the picket today! @aquaitalia should be ashamed of taking money from their workers wages! Outrageous exploitation! #FairTips Join us today:— Unite South West (@unitesouthwest) January 13, 2018
Picket Aqua: Pay Your Workers Properly
15.00 outside Aqua Italia Welsh Back, BS8 2RF https://t.co/st5K00olkH
I hope Bristolians do the right thing and boycott their restaurants.— Bri-Red (@GhostDancer01) January 12, 2018
And folks are flooding the reviews for the restaurant with some pretty angry stuff:
Though at least one person who claims to be a former employee has come to the company's defense, saying the way servers are portrayed in media coverage makes it seem like they're unaware of the policy:
Ami Miller writes that a potential boycott will result in greater loss of wages to servers currently employed by Aqua Italia, and that the policy worked out well for her.
It's true that the business closing or having its reputation smeared will likely be bad for anyone employed by Aqua Italia, but as Grubstreet reports, that doesn't mean what they're reportedly doing is okay. In fact, it's possibly illegal, especially since the three percent policy reportedly doesn't appear in their employee contracts.
What do you think?