Tipping restaurant staff is a controversial topic, but it's also a taboo that many will refuse to openly talk about - and the British are famous for that!
On a recent outing to a well-known 5* establishment in the heart of London's Mayfair, our team were shocked to receive unmistakable poor service. From a lacklustre greeting, a noticeable annoyance to dietary constraints (that were already pre-notified on the booking), and some serious attitude throughout our meal - we were extremely disappointed with the overall poor standard.
Our experience ended in a 12.5% service charge being automatically added to the bill...followed by the start of a team debate about this matter...
What's the Law?
Under the 2015 Consumer Rights Act, restaurants are legally required to use reasonable care and skill when providing their service. If the restaurant falls below this standard, a consumer is entitled to refuse to pay some or all of a service charge, depending on how bad the service actually is.
Understandably the level of service very much depends upon the type of establishment you are dining at - namely you shouldn't expect the same standard of service from a fast-food outlet as you would from a fine dining restaurant.
So, once you establish that the consumer is actually the one in control of whether to pay or not - the real question becomes....
Should you pay a service charge on your bill if you didn't receive adequate service?
Providing service of the highest standard should be at the very heart of working in hospitality. For those working within a luxury, high-end environment, it's about realising that the customer is paying for a whole experience. The higher prices warrant the expectation that they will be dining within a luxurious setting, enjoying food of the highest quality, and being met with exceptional personal service.
Going back to that team outing in Mayfair, it felt as though either the staff were having an 'off-day' or, worse still, that they were working under the assumption that they would still be paid their additional service charge regardless, and needn't bother about 'going the extra mile'.
Have hospitality standards slipped because of this automatic service charge? Should staff be instead encouraged to work harder for their money?
In Oct 2018, the BBC reported that restaurants would be legally banned from keeping tips from staff, following a public outcry that many High Street chains were regularly taking up to 10% of tips paid by credit and debit cards. Theresa May had spoken out at the time saying it was "part of the government's push to end exploitative employment practices". This was an important initiative to protect staff who were genuinely working hard but sadly taken advantage of.
Refuse or Give In?
When faced with that automatic service charge to your bill, it is your legal right to determine whether you feel obliged to pay it or not, and the consumer is most certainly in the driving seat to assess the quality of service. Don't feel under pressure to hand over your credit card if you feel that you were met with bad service. Make your voice heard and respectfully provide your feedback to the staff or management.
The hospitality industry is a competitive space, and staff work within a pressured atmosphere most of the time. Customers are increasingly developing a 'must-have-everything-now' attitude, and expect the highest quality, round-the-clock attention AND a friendly smile! Constructive criticism can help the employees strive for better and raise standards amongst the whole team. With so many restaurants closing down in the UK at the moment, now is the time to make sure that every establishment is doing its best to be as successful as possible.
If you're experienced in delivering an exceptional level of hospitality service, then click here for more info