Conran staff basic pay is less than £2 per hour

One of Britain's most exclusive restaurant groups pays some of its waiting staff a basic wage of less than £2 per hour, The Independent has discovered.

D&D London, which posted revenues of £71m this year and is half owned by Sir Terence Conran, joins a growing list of establishments using service charges to top up pay to the national minimum wage.

A former waiter at the Paternoster Chop House, one of D&D's 20 London restaurants, has shown The Independent a contract from earlier this summer stating that he received "house pay" of £1.88 per hour, or little over a third of the £5.52 minimum for workers aged 22 and over.

A separate document outlining the restaurant's "tronc" system for distributing tips reveals that a share of the restaurant's 12.5 per cent discretionary service charges would boost pay by an amount "in the region of £6.29 per hour". In a statement, D&D, which also owns Quaglino's and Skylon in the capital, and restaurants in Paris and New York, confirmed it does not have a policy "specifying minimum house pay". The manager of the Paternoster Chop House was unavailable for comment.

After a recent trial shift the waiter says he was told he would receive "between £15,000 and £17,000 a year". During a second week of work at the Chop House, near St Paul's Cathedral, a contract was drawn up.

"I read it and couldn't believe my eyes," the waiter said. "It must be legal but I told them it was immoral to pay people £1.88 an hour. Customers don't realise the 12.5 per cent added to the bill as a service charge is to make up the minimum wage, not to reward the waiter for good service."

A loophole in minimum wage legislation means the practice of "topping up", also operated by some of the nation's biggest chains, including Café Rouge, Strada and Caffè Uno, is legal. The Independent is calling on the Government to close the loophole so waiting staff are guaranteed at least the minimum wage with service charges and tips on top.

Conran's 51 per cent stake in D&D, which he founded as Conran Restaurants in 1991, is worth an estimated £100m. The firm, which employs around 1,500 staff, is headed by chairman and chief executive, Des Gunewardena.

In an email, Mr Gunewardena defended the Paternoster Chop House wage structure: "Our house pay and allocation of service charge are set by each general manager and Troncmaster [in each restaurant] ... The likelihood of service charge falling to levels such that minimum wage earnings are not achieved is very low. If this were to happen then of course pay rates would be adjusted."

He added: "We have reviewed our policy many times and will do so again if we think a change could be for the better. But our conclusion has been that our current policy is best and fully compliant and in sympathy with the objectives of minimum wage legislation."

Last week, former minister Ian McCartney revealed the Government had bowed to industry pressure to use service charges to boost wages. "It was never intended that the Minimum Wage Act should be used in this way," he said.

The former waiter at the Paternoster Chop House did not sign his contract and was unemployed for a time. "I took a moral standpoint and said it's wrong and walked out, but a lot of people can't do that," he said. "I've worked in restaurants in villages where young waiters are paid £7 an hour plus all tips."

* Ping Pong, a London chain of dim sum restaurants, confirmed, after a tip-off to The Independent, that it uses service charges to top up to or above the minimum wage. Ping Pong said in a statement: "The current legislation allows us to include credit card tips as part of the minimum wage ... Should anyone fall below minimum wage levels we always top it up".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions