TGI Fridays staff are preparing for industrial strike action over changes to the way tips are distributed after claiming that the company has "refused" to discuss the issue.
Trade union Unite has said the move was met with opposition by front and back of house employees alike with waiting staff angry about the loss of card tips and kitchen staff unhappy about swapping a rise in basic pay for a share of tips.
The move led to staff protests outside three of the 83-strong restaurant chain's London sites on the evening of Valentine's Day.
But Unite regional officer Dave Turnbull told The Caterer that TGI is "refusing" to discuss the issue.
"The company is absolutely refusing to talk in any way shape or form about the complaint about the tips," he said.
"Their argument is it was a decision by the troncmaster and they've got nothing to do with it. This clearly isn't accepted by the staff because the troncmaster is an operations director and his justification for the 40% was that the staff turnover in the kitchen was too high and it's his way of addressing it."
Turnbull said the troncmaster is TGI director of operations for Scotland Trevor Peach and described his decision to change the way tips are distributed as a "complete breach of written policy".
"[The policy says] that he should act under instruction and in consultation with the tronc committee," said Turnbull.
"He's bypassed that and insisted he has the right to make his own decision and the company is refusing to discuss that breach of their own policy."
Unite said it would ballot workers next week at two TGI Friday's restaurants - in London's Covent Garden and Milton Keynes - about strike action over the new tips policy. There will also be a protest outside the Covent Garden restaurant on Friday.
The escalation in the row over tips comes a month after TGI Fridays was among the top three worst offenders in the government's 'name and shame' list for underpaying the minimum wage.
A TGI Fridays spokesperson said: "At TGI Fridays, 100% of tips go to our team members. The decision to give 40% of tips paid by card to the kitchen teams is to ensure that all team members responsible for our guests service are rewarded. Servers continue to keep 100% of the cash tips they are given.
"These decisions are based on the Troncmasters consultation with team members. Tips and wages are entirely separate and our tips policy has no impact on salary. We will continue to talk with our team members, our Fridays Family, to clarify information and resolve concerns."