Waiting staff today held a demonstration outside the House of Commons calling on the Government to ensure they get 100% of customer tips.
The demonstration, organised by the Unite union, comes a week before a consultation on proposals to close the loophole that allows hospitality operators to make up national minimum wage with tips ends.
A YouGov survey of nearly 2,200 consumers, commissioned by campaign group Consumer Focus and released today, revealed that 94% believe all tips "should always go to the staff with no deductions by restaurant owners".
Len McCluskey, Unite assistant general secretary, said: "The message from workers and consumers to the Government on tips is undeniably strong. It must ensure employers in the hospitality industry give a decent living wage with 100% of tips added on top.
"This sector has so far failed to demonstrate its commitment to a fair and transparent tipping system," he added. "We can not continue to allow them to abuse customer generosity."
Business Secretary Peter Mandelson indicated at the launch of the consultation that the Government was in favour of closing the loophole. "Our view is that tips should be paid to the worker on top of their pay and not be used to make up the national minimum wage," he said.
However, the hospitality industry has opposed the changes, warning they will cost the restaurant sector as much as £73m. Analysts have estimated that the law change could cost Carluccio's alone at least £1m per annum in additional wages.
The British Hospitality Association said: "We believe that the consultation paper seriously underestimates the number of people involved and the cost to employers.
"We support transparency and we're working with the Business Department to produce a guide to businesses on how they can explain to customers how they deal with the service charge."
In the wake of today's demonstration, The Restaurant Group, which employs more than 9,500 people and operates the Frankie and Benny's, Chiquitos, Garfunkels, Brunning and Price and Blubeckers brands, has issued a statement.
"The Restaurant Group pays all its employees at least the minimum wage," it said. "The Restaurant Group does not engage in the practice of using tips to make up minimum wage. Tips received by employees are in addition to minimum wage."
By Daniel Thomas
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