Pizza and pasta chains 'use tips to top up' wages for waiters

Britain's biggest restaurant group was accused yesterday of increasing its profits by using tips from customers at two of its high street "pizza and pasta" chains to top up the earnings of waiting staff to ensure they are paid the minimum wage.

Gondola Group, the private equity-controlled company that owns more than 540 PizzaExpress, Zizzi and ASK restaurants across Britain, describes its 12,000 employees as its "greatest asset" and stated in its most recent financial report that it strives to treat them "with respect... looking after their welfare".

But employees at the 205 branches of Zizzi, a chain specialising in Italian food, and ASK, which specialises in pizzas, have told The Independent the restaurants operate a policy of using gratuities left on a credit card to ensure waiting staff receive the minimum wage of £5.52 per hour.

Workers said they received a basic hourly wage of £4.10 which was made up to the minimum with credit card service charges.

Despite heavy criticism, the practice is perfectly legal.

Gondola, which bought the Zizzi and ASK chains for £225m in 2004, has pointed to its policy at PizzaExpress as proof of its pledge to treat its staff fairly.

Staff at PizzaExpress, who are paid the minimum wage or more, receive the credit card tips on top of their salary, subject to an 8 per cent cut taken by the company to cover administration costs.

Dominique Azid, a 20-year-old law student at the University of Essex, claimed that, while working at a branch of ASK in Harrow, north-west London, waiters received a share of the cash tips left by customers. But gratuities left by customers on credit and debit cards were sent to head office and only used to top up his £4.10 an hour pay.

Two former employees of Zizzi said similar policies were pursued by the chain.

Mr Azid, who left his job this month, claimed customers were not allowed to know the true situation: "If we were asked by customers: 'Does this go towards your wages?' you had to say 'yes'."

Gondola's chief executive underlined yesterday that Zizzi and ASK were run as separate entities and the company was "figuring out" how to bring the brands into line with PizzaExpress.

Harvey Smyth, 39, who helped transform the sandwich chain Pret A Manger before joining PizzaExpress in 2003, said: "We operate in an extremely competitive environment and yet we have a long list of people wanting to work for us. If we were not treating our staff fairly that simply would not be the case. If you don't look after your people then they will go and work for someone else."

Have your say below on any general issues. If you have points on a specific restaurant or employer, rather than post below, please email with "Tipping" in the subject line.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty

Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
Designer Oscar de la Renta takes a bow after showing his Spring 2015 collection in September, his last show before his death
fashionThe passing of the legendary designer has left a vacancy: couturier to America’s royalty, says fashion editor Alexander Fury
Life and Style

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
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 Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

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
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?
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
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
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why