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Bjorn van der Horst bans service charge at his new London restaurant

By Sophie Witts , 25-Feb-2016
Last updated on 25-Feb-2016 at 10:38 GMT2016-02-25T10:38:34Z

Omar Romero and Bjorn van der Horst
Omar Romero and Bjorn van der Horst

Bjorn van der Horst is to scrap service charges at his new London restaurant Kojawan when it opens next month.

The swiss-born chef is teaming up with former Rhodes Twenty Four chef Omar Romero to open a 100-cover restaurant serving Seoul, Tokyo and Taipei-inspired ‘soul food’ on the 23rd floor of the London Hilton Metropole.

Kojawan will not employ a mandatory service charge or take tips on card, but will not stop customers leaving tips if they really want to.

Van der Horst explained that he wanted to pay staff a ‘respectful salary’ so they didn't have to rely on the 'unfair' service charge to top up wages.

He said: “We thought long and hard about this and genuinely believe this is the future of the hospitality industry if we are to support, retain and attract new talent whilst providing genuine career opportunities.

“We owe it to our hospitality work force to show them the utmost respect by giving them the opportunity to own a home, get a mortgage and be equal members of the skilled working class.

“We don’t believe it’s fair that take-home pay be fixed at a minimal rate and topped up by at times an unclear fluctuating service charge distribution, which depends on how busy the restaurant is, what section you’ve been given to work in, or how much management deems appropriate.”

Industry-wide shift

The chef added that he hoped more restaurants would follow suit in challenging the existing system.

“We [as owners] can create clear and transparent incentive bonus schemes based on financial results in a similar way that many other industries provide yearly bonus schemes to their teams,” he said.

“Skilled craftsmen and workers in the hospitality industry should be recognised the same as in other industries, they have learnt a trade and deserve the same status.

“This is a massive step for our industry and one we are taking very seriously in the hope others will follow suit.”

Van der Horst left his role as head of food and beverage at Rosewood London  in 2014 to concentrate on Kojawan’s opening.

The restaurant will open seven days a week from March and feature a menu designed by Van der Horst and Romero in in collaboration with co-founder Henry Chebaane.

Dishes will include rice-sandwiches; glazed-lobster-dog & sesame-seaweed ponzu and Kojawan's own version of Eton mess with lychee-green tea meringue & sake cream. 

Last year US restaurateur Danny Meyer scrapped tipping across his 13 New York restaurants, raising both menu prices and wages to make up the cost.