I’ll never forget my first tips packet I received as a working chef. It was more than 30 years ago now, and my then head chef received a bundle of cash from the head waiter after all the waiting staff had received what he then thought was fair for their hard work. My chef handed me a few pound notes and it went up the ranks and the sous chef received quite a bit, but the head chef took the majority home in his back pocket.
I’d like to think we’ve come a long way since my meagre few quid as a pat on the head for a good job working for £36 a week. Sadly not.
It seems the devaluing of our profession is rife and it must stop. The industry is a hard, unsociable industry for most - however, I vowed to change the archaic ways of giving staff what they are due. I have never taken a penny in gratuities and all money left at the table or given to us on a credit card is cashed up and divided equally, pro-rata between staff.
It’s a much-needed boost to the pay packet and we give it out weekly too. In these increasingly hard times with private rents increasing because of house shortages, and the cost of living increasing all the time we all have a moral duty to do the right thing by looking after our people. Less greed and more catering for their needs.
"People are the reason to open the door in the morning,
not counting your money at the end of the night"
I for one would far rather take less profit at the end of a year and know my team are all ok. I couldn’t sleep at night with the knowledge that my staff were struggling with rent payments and bills.
We have a troncmaster at Cafe St Honoré, who is also the restaurant manager, and he hands the cash tips out and it’s all dealt with in a separate bank account to which I have no access. It’s run by the staff for the staff. It’s not performance related.
You get an equal cut if you worked that day, simple. The manager to the kitchen porter are all are given the same tips. I find it quite sad that some large chains feel the need to keep tips and I welcome the recent news that all tips will legally have to be handed to staff. This should have happened years ago.
Operate a good, clean culture and you will have good people wanting to work for and with you. Make more profit by buying better, more locally and in season, buy whole animals, butcher them yourself. Make more profit that way and teach your staff how they can run a fair and sustainable business. People are the reason to open the door in the morning, not counting your money at the end of the night.
Come on people in the catering business, like Jamie Oliver said recently, let’s help each other out more, advise others and have forums. Things will change. Yes, we get things wrong sometimes, but we can only move forward with our teams by learning, going on stages, and eating out.
Ask your staff what they think is fair. Surely the whole reason we are in this business is to please people with food, drink and service. It would be a great shame if that was one big lie and guests, customers and staff alike have been cheated all these years.
Neil Forbes was the winner of the Treat Staff Fairly award at the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s Food Made Good Awards 2018.