Waiters described the “terrible” atmosphere at Miller & Carter steakhouses amid the tipping scandal. More than 8,600 people have signed a petition calling on the company to change the policy allegedly in place at its Cardiff branches. Union activists organized a protest outside the Hayes restaurant on Sunday.

Since the end of August, waiters at some Miller & Carter branches, including Cardiff Bay and Hayes, have reportedly received tips equivalent to 1.5% of gross sales at their tables. This amount supposedly comes from your tips and goes to the kitchen, bar and management team. Some servers reportedly cried over concerns about going into tip debt if they didn’t earn enough tips to cover the percentage.

In October, some waiters said they would no longer cooperate with the new system. And last month, more than 80% of waiters at Hayes and Cardiff Bay steakhouses wrote their names complaining that their tips were being deducted based on a percentage of sales without their consent. The dispute then escalated with Sunday’s protest organized by Unite the Union. Following Hayes’ picket, the union wrote on social media: “With the blessing of our members, activists from Unite and the Cardiff County Council of Trade Unions took action directly outside Miller & Carter’s headquarters in Cardiff to send out a clear statement. “Message to senior management… Honest advice now.”

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A Cardiff waiter told WalesOnline: “Some people have left after the new policy, others are planning to move. Some people do other part-time jobs. Everyone is upset, the general atmosphere is terrible. There is tension between the kitchen and the bar. both floor and management. “We’ve never had any problems before, we’ve always been a team.”

Whistleblowers told WalesOnline that under the old system, Cardiff waiters shared 15% of their tips with regular staff. They believe sharing tips is fairer than matching a gross percentage of sales. WalesOnline saw a message from a Miller & Carter manager to staff that said: “In the unlikely event that the server’s gratuity is not covered by your tip, the note will be held until next week; This will continue until the full tip amount is collected.”

If a server incurs “tip debt,” the amount owed will be deducted from their tip during future shifts, but Miller & Carter insists it will never be paid out of their paycheck. A spokeswoman for the chain said: “We are transparent in our approach, which we believe is democratic, fair and ensures that 100% of guest tips are retained by first team members.” But a whistleblower in Cardiff claimed that when staff at his branch voted on tips, all options included a percentage of gross sales. He said there were more waiters than other employees, which allegedly led to the highest sales percentage of the options, 1.5%.

Protest outside Miller & Carter, Cardiff city center

A Miller & Carter spokeswoman accused Unite of influencing staff in recent months and obstructing a resolution. She said: “The tips our employees receive are in addition to our base salary and benefits package, which is always paid at or above the national minimum wage. There has been no change in the approach taken for years so that team members democratically agree each year on how to distribute restaurant tips at the local level.

“Unfortunately, this year, the influence of third parties has meant that certain teams have been unable to agree on how they want to share their advice. We have tried to help these teams resolve this issue and agree on a revised policy, but unfortunately this has been complicated by external third-party influences. “We remain open to supporting any team in reaching agreement on a revised policy if they wish.”

Responding to letters sent by waiters last month, a spokeswoman said: “We are aware that in five of our 124 restaurants this year, teams were unable to agree on the best solution for tipping in their restaurants. “We are currently working to help teams at these locations find a solution that works for everyone, and if we become aware of any practices that are not consistent with what the team has agreed to, we will investigate further.”

He added that servers “have never taken a pay cut in lieu of tips” and general managers receive no share of tips. “All other employees are encouraged to participate in the team tipping process to ensure fairness for all,” he said.

The complainants say the atmosphere in the Cardiff branches has been “terrible” since the dispute began and that they are “likely” to go on strike unless they get what they consider to be a fair vote on the tipping policy. “We want to make sure voting options don’t represent percentages of gross sales,” said a Cardiff bartender.

The Unite petition calls on the chief executive of owner Mitchells & Butlers, Phil Urban, to introduce an “honest and truly democratic Advisory Committee to be elected in each restaurant without interference from management”. Mitchells & Butlers announced an operating profit of £99 million for the 2023 half-year.