Restaurant chain Bill’s accused of ‘duping customers’ over tips

By Jamie Elliott

One of the UK’s larger and fastest growing restaurant chains has been accused of deceiving customers by using tips to pay rock bottom wages. Unbeknown to diners, upmarket eatery Bill’s is using the optional service charge added to customers’ bills to subsidise rates of pay as low as £7.00 per hour.

A recent graduate who this summer worked at a west London branch of the chain, which  employs 2,200 staff in over 50 restaurants, told London Journalism Centre she felt “exploited, used and unappreciated” when she found out how tips were being used.

Bill's diners

“I was shocked to find that Bill’s was using the service charge left by customers to top up the minimum wage to pay me just £7.00 per hour,” she said. “It felt fraudulent because the customers were paying 12.5% on top of their bills to go to tips and we saw next to none of it.”

Staff at an east London branch of Bill’s visited by London Journalism Centre also said they did not receive tips in addition to their hourly pay. One waitress said she was paid £7.00 per hour, which she said was made up of the national minimum wage [£6.50 per hour] topped up by the service charge left by customers.  But she received nothing in addition to her hourly rate.  Another waiter, who had worked in the restaurant for almost a year, said he was paid £7.50 per hour, but again, received none of the service charge on top of his pay.

Bill's diners outside

Greg Hinchliffe, Finance Director at Bill’s, acknowledged that the firm used the service charge left by customers to pay wages throughout the restaurant, which, with the exception of managers, ranged from £6.50 to £10.00 per hour. But he added that if there was anything left in the service charge pot after wages had been paid this was passed on to staff at three month intervals.

“Where a restaurant finds it is building up a surplus [of service charge] this is distributed in full to team members on a quarterly basis – splitting across the entire team,” he said.

According to Dave Turnbull, Officer for the Hospitality Industry at Unite the Union, the restaurant chain is increasingly out of step with the rest of the industry.

“It’ll be news for customers of Bill’s that their tips for good service are being used to subsidise low pay. Many restaurant chains have turned their back on such sharp practices, but it would be appear that some like Bill’s are short changing staff and duping customers to squeeze out every last drop of profit. We’d question how such practices sit alongside the founding values that Bill’s markets itself on and urge the chain to get its house in order.”

See also:

Waiters hit out at bad table manners as restaurants use tips to pay wages

Celebrity chef leaves waiters with bitter taste over tips

Cafe waiters fear the axe over cash tips



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How to break into music journalism

Music journanlism course




 By Lulu Le Vay

So you think you’ve got it as a music journalist? There you are sitting at home fawning over your favourite albums and swearing at the NME. Well, I’m afraid there’s more to it than that. First thing is, can you actually write? It’s all very well if you know a few things about My Bloody Valentine and have an opinion on Justin Bieber, but are you able to articulate it?

Being able to write takes time and commitment, and most of all – practice. When you are starting out you need to not only to continue to hone your wordy skills, but also read as much as possible. Not just music rags, but books: fiction, biographies. If you are unsure about your punctuation and grammar, then swot up quickly – if you are serious, that is, about becoming a respected music journalist.

Once you have your writing skills in hand, you then need to make yourself visible. Start a blog, get into social media. But make sure you are taking an interesting angle – what gives you the edge’? Perhaps you have some insight into the geekiness of music production or have a penchant for record covers. Or maybe you are obsessed with cover songs or have a thing about women in rock music. Whatever your take is, make sure it is original, as only then will the blogging wheat be separated from the chaff and you will get noticed.

Networking and being out ‘on the scene’ is also vital if you wish to make musical waves. Whatever your scene is, make sure you are immersed in it. Meet the producers, the record labels, the artist managers and DJs. Get into those parties and quite simply – talk to people. If you are as credible and interesting as you think you are, then they will think you are too. Getting out there as a DJ and promoting your own parties – perhaps with an accompanying fanzine, podcast or mixtape – will also get people’s ears twitching.

So in short, being locked in your room at home thinking you’re the next Alexis Petridis will get you absolutely nowhere. You need to get out there, do something about it, and do it now.