Waiting staff are out on protest today in central London over low pay and claims that Pizza Express management are “pocketing an estimated £1m that should go to poorly paid staff”.
Unite the union is organising the event, which began at midday on National Waiters' Day, outside the Leicester Square branch of Pizza Express.
— Unite the union (@unitetheunion) May 21, 2015
Protesters are taking issue with Pizza Express' practice of deducting an eight per cent admin charge from tips when the customer pays with a credit card, calling on the restaurant chain to “give us our dough” and “stop pinching our tips”.
Unite estimates that Pizza Express, which operates 430 branches, makes £1m a year from this practice.
Seven years ago Unite fought against the sector's misuse of tips as a way to top up wages in order to meet the minimum pay threshold. The law was changed on the back of its campaign.
Unite is organising a second Waiter's Day protest, against the use of zero-hour contracts, at 4pm outside the Grosvenor House Marriot Hotel on Park Lane.
The union said it was “reclaiming National Waiters’ Day to stand up and speak out against unfair tipping policies, zero-hours contracts and poverty pay which have left waiting tables top of the list of the UK’s worst paid jobs”.
Dave Turnbull, Unite regional officer, added: “If the hospitality industry is serious about inspiring more people to wait tables for a living it needs to do more to take poverty pay and zero-hours contracts off the menu for good.”
But a spokesman for Pizza Express claimed Unite's allegations were "false and completely without merit"
He said: "Pizza Express does not profit from the tips paid by its customers. Instead, all tips, very rightly, go to the people that deserve them – our valued restaurant team members."
The spokesman said the Tronc system Pizza Express operated meant that card payments went through without NI contributions being made.
"Therefore, our restaurant teams are charged an administrative fee of just eight per cent, compared to National Insurance Contributions of 12.8 per cent, which they would otherwise be required to pay.
"To cover the administrative costs of ensuring that the Tronc system is managed correctly and fairly and so that we meet our legal obligations as an employer, a small administrative fee of eight per cent is levied on the Tronc. Under no circumstances does Pizza Express generate additional profit through the Tronc system."
He added: "We went to great lengths to set up this Tronc system which is chaired by a Troncmaster and run by a committee of waiters and pizzaiolos, who independently decide how tips made by electronic card payment are subsequently distributed between front and back of house restaurant team; a system run by employees for the employees.
"We are proud that the committee chose to reward all team members who contribute to a fantastic customer experience by electing to give 30 per cent of tips made by electronic card payment to our cleaners, pizzaiolos and other back of house team members (with the remaining 70 per cent going to the waiter). We believe that PizzaExpress has great people at its heart and for this reason, we want to ensure that they keep their tips and ultimately, continue to deliver great service."