Restaurant chain PizzaExpress has announced that it is to scrap the 8% administration fee it charges on tips made by electronic card payment.
The move comes after the introduction of a new automated system to distribute tips across the company's 430 UK restaurants, employing 10,000 people and follows criticism from the Unite union over its practices.
PizzaExpress said the automated system has been developed over the last six months and is being launched following pilot trials to avoid any potential implementation issues.
It replaces a more labour-intensive manual procedure used to help redistribute tips among staff and to meet the company's tax and legal obligations to HMRC, and is therefore thought to be cheaper.
PizzaExpress said that tips made on electronic card payments will now be fully distributed among employees as agreed by the company's tronc committee. Currently, this independent group elects to give 30% of card-based tips to cleaners, pizzaiolos and other kitchen staff; with the remaining 70% going to the individual waiter as a reward for customer service.
Richard Hodgson, CEO of PizzaExpress said: "We recognise that our team members are critical to delivering the fantastic customer experience that PizzaExpress has built over many years. As a leader in the casual-dining industry, we're committed to best practice and to ensuring that our people are properly rewarded for the valuable contribution they make to our business.
"We have always been, and will continue to be, transparent about our tipping policies. We also agree with calls for greater clarity across the industry in order to ensure that staff are given a fair deal, and to enable customers to make an informed choice when it comes to tipping.
"We want people to recognise that this is a company that values employees and offers long-term opportunities. I'm committed to ensuring that we continue to work on improving the image of our sector, and to ensure we appeal to talented, ambitious people with the right mix of skills. We are playing our part by investing heavily in apprenticeships and the creation of 2,500 new jobs over the next few years; and we welcome the Government's decision on the Living Wage which we will be adopting in full."
PizzaExpress' move follows a month of bad publicity for the restaurant sector over the issue of tipping and the service charge. In addition to the 430-strong pizza restaurant chain, Bill's, Las Iguanas, Turtle Bay and Côte have all come in for criticism over their practices.
Last month, Hawksmoor co-founder Will Beckett urged his fellow restaurateurs to be more transparent over the issue.
Unite was not immediately available for comment in relation to PizzaExpress's latest move.