COMMENT: Waiter wage hike would be better PR than scrapping tip admin charges

W26306H13OliPoole''Business Picture. Worthing Herald Business Reporter, Oli Poole. ENGSUS00120130620162236
W26306H13OliPoole''Business Picture. Worthing Herald Business Reporter, Oli Poole. ENGSUS00120130620162236

TIPPING is a moral obligation but if the restaurant industry paid a living wage, it would not be required.

Not withstanding the uncertainty of how much should be added to your bill at the end of a meal, it appears the gratuities do not always entirely go to the recipients intended.

Pizza Express has scrapped an eight per cent ‘administration charge’ on tips made by card, following sustained pressure from trade unions and its staff. Sadly, it is not the only major chain under the media spotlight in recent weeks over the issue.

While Pizza Express’s long-overdue policy change should be welcomed, the furore masks what should be the wider issue – tipping should not be necessary at all.

Being a waiter is a low-paid profession, with salaries generally on or around minimum wage. Tipping is relied upon as a top up.

Rather than scrapping administration charges under intense pressure, how refreshing would it be to see the major players instead take a stance and pay staff the living wage?

On the other side of the coin, however, the industry cannot be blamed for low pay. It meets the minimum standards, as set by the Government.

I suspect a move to a living wage – higher than that proposed by the Government’s higher minimum wage set out in the Budget – would need to be adopted by all sectors in the interests of fairness.

There are multiple low-paid jobs which command a similar pay scale, yet do not benefit from tipping.

The only reason we tip, I suspect, is because it is seen as the right thing to do. I struggle to see any other justification.

Tipping is so ingrained in our cultures that diners generally feel morally obliged to leave their waiter or waitress a few pounds.

But it should not be the responsibility of the customers, who have already shelled out for a meal out, to pay the restaurant’s staff.

Some smaller eateries have already taken the initiative. The Independent reported how a New York restaurant has a ‘no tipping’ policy, instead adding a 20 per cent admin fee to bills to offset their costs.

That seems fair enough for an independent – albeit effectively tipping by another method – but the chains are more than profitable enough to absorb the costs themselves.

I live in hope...