It comes after a BuzzFeed report alleged the Azzuri Group-owned chain left waiting staff ‘financially responsible’ for tables in cases of error including where card payments were declined or receipts were lost.
BuzzFeed spoke to more than a dozen current and former Zizzi staff, some of whom had never heard of the policy, while others said it was enforced at the ‘discretion of management’.
It is legal for restaurant employers to take up to 10% of a staff member’s gross pay each pay period to cover shortfalls in the till. BigHospitality understands that this can also include tips.
A spokesperson for Zizzi told BigHospitality its cash handling policy was in place to prevent fraud and that the company covered losses when customers ‘dined and dashed’.
They also confirmed that the ‘principle’ of the scheme applied at Azzuri’s other restaurant brands ASK Italian and Coco di Mama, which alongside Zizzi employ nearly 6,000 people.
“We greatly value the teams in our restaurants and are concerned to hear about the instances described,” the spokesperson said.
“The Zizzi cash handling policy is designed to prevent fraud and negligence. It is absolutely not designed to recoup losses from staff for genuine mistakes such as lost credit card receipts.
“Zizzi does and will continue to carry losses such as customers leaving without paying.
“We will also revisit the wording of the policy to make sure that its purpose and application are absolutely clear.”
Following BuzzFeed’s initial report on 29 November Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Tom Watson MP has set up a petition demanding Zizzi’s chief executive Steve Holmes end the ‘totally unacceptable’ practice. At the time of writing it has over 1500 signatures.
This is not the first time tipping practices have come under scrutiny. The issue has hit the headlines multiple times, and in 2015 restaurant groups faced backlash for leveraging an administration charge on card tips to cover the costs of a running a tronc system.
Azzuri and other groups such as Pizza Express later removed the charges following public backlash.
The British Hospitality Association (BHA) declined to comment when contacted by BigHospitality, but pointed to its Code of Practice which advises restaurants make it clear to customers how non-cash tips are distributed or used to cover costs.