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".


Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
peopleLynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance moves audience to tears
Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella

Arts and Entertainment
Enid Blyton's Magic Faraway Tree is to be made into a series of films

Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree really is being made into a film

Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Teacher

£22000 - £32000 per annum + TLR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our client is...

Database Administrator

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: The role could involve w...

Science Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified secondary s...

Deputy Head of Science

£22000 - £36000 per annum + MPR / UPR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our cli...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London