Steve Richards, who oversees brands including Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Las Iguanas, told the UKHospitality conference in London yesterday (9 July) that his highest paid waitress takes home £50,000 a year with tips.
He added that hourly pay and tips could see restaurant staff earn more than the basic starting salary for a junior doctor, which is around £26,000.
He was part of a panel which discussed the need for the hospitality industry to overcome its “image problem” around careers.
“We did a detailed analysis of what the actual take-home pay is of our average hourly paid staff, including waiters and waitresses,” said Richards.
“What they’re actually earning is £11.25 an hour, on a 40-hour week they’re earning more than a trainee doctor. It’s an absolute myth that we have low pay. The reason for that is we pay minimum wage and process the tips [through the tronc system].
“My highest paid waitress is on £50,000 a year with tips. My average is earning around £26,000. We don’t have a problem recruiting because the tips in the market are so strong.
"[Tips] are processed through the tronc system and taxed...but then we have this strange conversation where we're not allowed to deem them as wages.
“The casual dining market and restaurants, particularly high-end restaurants, are very good payers. That message is clearly lost in the fog.”
CDG employs 9,000 people across more than 300 UK restaurants, which also include the La Tasca and Belgo brands.
The group announced a £30m cash injection last month to position the company for growth in a "challenging" environment.
It is also trialling two delivery-only brands out of its existing kitchens. Stack and Grill trades out of Cafe Rouge sites and offers burgers and croque monsieur, while Blazing Bird delivers chicken from Las Iguanas restaurants.