Our recent feature "Tipping the Scales" - on the issue of tips, service charges and the minimum wage - clearly touched on a subject you feel strongly about, one that had our postbag overflowing with comment. Here, we publish a selection of your views.
Companies should pay more
Using tips to make employees' wages up to the minimum wage is disgraceful.
The tip is a bonus given for good service from a customer to a server. It is wrong to try to set a legal limit for tipping; it is up to the customer to decide the amount, and if a tip is deserved.
You see the profits of these major companies growing bigger and bigger, yet they rely on the customer to pay their staff wages for them. It shows how much companies and management really value their operational staff.
Surely, the minimum wage is set as a guideline, and companies should be going above this mark to hold on to staff, reduce labour turnover, and improve customer satisfaction through increase in quality, thus increasing repeat business and revenue.
No need for service charges
The PizzaExpress practice on tips and service charges is the right one.
Here at the Dean Court Hotel in York, we have never imposed service charges or cover charges (even more invidious than a service charge), and ensure that credit card slips are completed.
If guests ask us about tipping or service charges, they are told there is no extra charge for the service they receive and tipping is not necessary. We've learnt that if guests want to leave a tip, they will; if they ask about it, they are unlikely to do so after we reply - and that's fine by us.
Recently, all departments that receive cash tips directly from guests voted to pool the lot and to have them all shared out among all staff, on a monthly basis. This matches the hotel's historical system for credit card tips.
I dearly hope that our industry does not take a backward step. Service charges should be banned. If an establishment needs all or part of its revenue to come from service charges, then it should include them in its prices. If it needs to pay its staff higher wages, it should do just that.
General manager, Dean Court Hotel, York.
When a tip is a bribe
The corruption, bribery and (on occasions) outright fraud that I have witnessed to boost (un-earned) tips or favours still manages to shock me. When a customer courts favour by tipping as they go into a restaurant, it is a bribe, not a tip, and another customer is likely to receive poorer service because of it. And to rub salt in the wound, despite not receiving as good a level of service, the second customer will still be expected to leave a tip.
Going to a restaurant is a multi-faceted experience. If any part of it breaks down, the tip will diminish. If the toilet is not clean, that's the manager or cleaner - do they get a tip? The manager, maybe; the cleaner, almost never. How about the chefs and kitchen porters? They should definitely get their share.
I hate tips. When I go to most restaurants, I tip because I have to, not because I want to. Although nothing I say, think or do will make one bit of a difference, if I manage to offend a few abusers of tips, then I am happy.
1 Lindsey Street, Smithfield, London EC1A 9HP.
Unfair and immoral
To use a service charge to augment the minimum wage is both unfair and somehow immoral. So how long has the minimum wage been in place, what happened before, and what arguments did we hear before about tips and service charges being used instead of wages?
So what's new?
I think what's new is the realisation within our industry, and a willingness to admit openly, that many of our staff have been undervalued and underpaid for far too long. The minimum wage was meant to address that problem, not only within our industry but in many others as well.
There is nothing wrong with the concept of a service charge, and many businesses use the service charge as a fair way to distribute the bonus for good service fairly among all their staff. These companies pay fair wages and should be acknowledged accordingly.
If a business is unable to pay a reasonable minimum wage without augmenting it with income from service charges, perhaps it should review its prices.
Operations director, International Study Centre, Herstmonceaux Castle, East Sussex.
Prices should be inclusive
As a caterer and a member of the public, I do not agree with employers using service charges or pooled tips to top up employees' wages. All customers assume, when reading the menu, that prices include company staff costs - and so they should.
It is not "business-like" to add a service charge to a menu to cover staff costs - how can you be sure to cover your costs if you have poor turnover? But, of course, such businesses probably have covered their staff costs and are just trying to rip off the public for a little more.
BHA must make a stand
I find it ironic that Caterer asks for its readers' views on the perennial industry moan about tipping ("it's time the industry spoke," you exhort us) when, in the body of your report, Martin Couchman of the BHA is quoted as saying: "We have no view on what the answer should be… It's not our responsibility…"
Really? I thought the BHA was a voice of the industry, providing focus, representation and campaigning verve on behalf of its members.
If ever there were a subject that the BHA could really get its teeth into, tipping is it. But then, maybe that might be a bit too difficult.