The staff, who are all union members, announced yesterday (26 October) that they would refuse to continue implementing any tip-out system linked to a percentage of sales and would instead be reverting back to one based on either a percentage of gratuities left by customers or a fixed amount per night.
It follows the introduction of a so-called ‘Tips for Tips Scheme’ across a number of Miller & Carter’s 124 UK restaurants, which requires front-of-house staff to 'tip-out' up to 2% of gross sales to the kitchen, bar and management.
The new policy, which Unite claims could see waiters lose hundreds of pounds per month, has already faced a significant backlash, with an online petition calling for Miller & Carter to scrap the policy having now received more than 8,000 signatures.
In a statement posted on social media yesterday, Unite said: “From 5pm today over 100 unionised waiters at five different Miller & Carter restaurants will be taking action on fair tips by reverting back to the tip-out system which saw kitchen & bar get a proportionate amount.
“No more % sales. No more management involvement.”
Miller & Carter has previously dismissed Unite’s claims regarding its tipping practises as being ‘inaccurate and potentially defamatory’.
In a statement released last week, a spokesperson for the group, which is owned by pubco Mitchells & Butlers, said: “We are more than happy to be transparent about our approach which we believe is democratic, fair and ensures 100% of all tips given by guests are retained by frontline team members.
“Tips received by our team members are in addition to our core pay and benefits package which is always paid at, or above, national minimum wage.”
Restaurants to introduce the new ‘Tips for Tips Scheme’ have done so following local votes by staff on how to share out the gratuity.
Each Miller & Carter restaurant team decides how their tip pot is shared through an annual voting process, and there are said to be more than 70 active variations on how the money is distributed across the group’s estate.
However, Unite claimed last week that ballots given to staff in several restaurants offered 'limited options' for how to split tips, with all or most of them linked to a percentage of gross table sales.
Miller & Carter's spokesperson responded at the time saying there had been no change to the way tip distribution is decided and suggested that staff issues related to tipping practises was isolated to just a handful of restaurants.
“There has been no change to the approach that has been taken for years in that it is team members who democratically agree each year how tips should be distributed at Miller & Carter, and to suggest otherwise is fundamentally untrue,” the spokesperson said.
“General Managers are not involved in the vote and/or final decisions and do not receive the benefits of tips. Every other member of staff is encouraged to participate in the process of how tips will be allocated amongst the team to ensure fairness for all.
“We are aware that in five out of our 124 restaurants this year the teams have not been able to agree the best tip sharing solution for their restaurant. We are currently trying to help the teams at these sites find a resolution that works for everyone and if we are made aware of any practices that don’t follow what has been agreed by the team, we will investigate further.”
Unite also claimed there was a ‘strongly held fear’ among Miller & Carter waiters that they would be brought below the minimum wage by the scheme, but this was refuted by the group.
“Team Members have not, and will never be, asked to contribute towards tips from their own remuneration and contrary to some claims, team members never have their wages reduced in lieu of the tips they have received and will never be asked to make up any perceived shortfall in tips that are to be distributed to other team members,” said Miller & Carter's spokesperson.
The online petition, which was launched by Bryan Simpson, lead organiser for Unite Hospitality across Britain and Ireland, demands every Miller & Carter restaurant have its own ‘genuinely democratic Fair Tips Committee’ that’s elected by staff without management interference.
It’s also calling on Mitchells & Butlers CEO Phil Urban to allow a new tips policy to be proposed by the committee and voted on by the workforce without management interference; and to rule out a percentage sales amount for tip-out as an option because ‘tips are not a guaranteed form of income’.