Restaurant staff tips: how to run an "ethical tronc"

2 min read

If you work in the restaurant industry in the UK, unless you have been living in a cave for the past few weeks, you won’t have failed to notice the storm of negative publicity that has engulfed restaurant chains Cote, Las Iguanas, Turtle Bay, Pizza Express and Bill’s regarding their tipping policy.
To simplify, the restaurants have been accused of at best misleading, at worst stealing, tips from their waiting staff.
Cote and Bill’s were accused of giving all of the 12.5% service charge placed on orders to the company profits and none to staff, while it was revealed that staff in Las Iguanas and Turtle Bay pay 3% of the table shares they generate on each shift back to the company (5.5% in central London).
Pizza Express recently announced they would stop keeping 8% restaurant staff tips as an “admin fee” after waiting staff and the Unite union members protested outside the pizza chain last month.


You can understand customers’ indignation. When most diners hand over a tip at the end of their meal they assume it goes to the cheery staff who served them or at least a cut to the chef who cooked the meal.
No customer likes being misled and no staff member likes having their hard earned tips taken from them.

Ethical tronc

To avoid confusion and potential negative publicity, The Caterer has published a list of seven ways to ensure an ethical tronc system.
Advised by corporate finance firm WMT, it suggestions the following seven rules are always adhered to to ensure restaurant staff tips are distributed fairly

Seven ethical tronc principles

1) Tips and service charges should never be used to meet Minimum Wage obligations.
2 ) If you invite customers to pay for service, you should always operate a tronc system. Customers expect service to be paid to staff in addition to basic pay, not part of it.
3) As an operator, never get involved with cash tipping. Whatever cash people get belongs to them.
4) Employ a maximum fee for administration that is always less than the NIC saving the employee stands to make, does no more than cover genuine costs, and from which the business does not profit.
5) Staff and customers should know what the rate of administration fee is (and it should not be buried on page 75 of the website).
6 ) All staff get a written copy of the tronc rules and a copy is available for customers too (and perhaps on the website).
7) Staff earn more when business is good, the restaurant is busier and more service charge is paid by customers.