Service charge

Staff accuse burger chain Byron of changing service charges | Hotel industry

Burger chain Byron has been accused of creating a “hostile environment” between managers and waiters who fear their tips are about to be diverted to raise the salaries of kitchen workers and restaurant managers.

Byron distributes the 10% service charge he applies to bills between the waiters, who receive 70%, and the kitchen workers, who receive 30%.

Staff were told that a new system would be put in place to allocate costs “fairly and equally”, with restaurant management teams expected to get a share for the first time.

While workers from each of the chain’s 21 restaurants will elect one person to represent them in a so-called trunk committee, which will decide the future of service fees, only 12 will be selected from that group to sit on the committee. Some workers fear that the company will use this process to fill the committee with people who support its strategy.

One waiter said: “Basically the owner of the company, Famously Proper Ltd, chose to use the service charge to increase the salaries of chefs and most importantly, the salaries of managers instead of using the profits. company to achieve the same result. . “

The staff member said the plan created a “war between servers and management.”

“People who have worked together for years are now fierce enemies, they no longer speak to each other. With this decision, Byron created a hostile environment and also created uncertainty among the staff. “

Servers believe they should continue to receive a larger share of the service fee as they work on five-hour or zero-hour contracts while managers receive a fixed salary and bonus.

Other concerns raised by some workers included the decision to give wait staff the job of cleaning toilets and mopping floors after Byron canceled his cleaning contract.

The chain, which closed 31 outlets last year after being rescued from administration, says it handed over the cleaning work to “internal staff” at their request to make up for the hours lost during the pandemic.

In a report, Byron said: “As the business has started to come out of lockdown and fully reopen, and staff are exiting the leave program, we are looking at the use of outside companies as a way to maintain the high standards that the business has to offer. has always maintained. “

Byron is owned by Calveton UK, which describes itself as a private investment firm. According to documents filed by Companies House, Calveton is owned by Sandeep Vyas and Haseeb Aziz. Vyas was a co-founder of the Barista coffee shop chain which operates in India and has owned a variety of hospitality and fashion businesses in the UK and India. Aziz is a private investor involved in Harwood Private Capital who previously worked at Merrill Lynch.

The proposal comes as hotel companies struggle to keep up with rising costs amid stiff competition for a shrinking pool of skilled workers caused by Brexit and the pandemic. Especially in demand are chefs and senior staff in the hall.

Pizza Express also faced backlash after cutting the slice of tips to waiters to pay kitchen workers more. Pret a Manger has tried to permanently halve a mystery shopper bonus for its shop workers, but reinstated the £ 1 an hour scheme after threatening to strike.

Dave Turnbull, national hospitality manager at Unite, said: “This is yet another example of why the government must keep its promise and introduce a fair tip law.”

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Famously Proper said all tips left by customers go to employees in its restaurants and kitchens, not to head office or company staff. “We don’t view tips as a way to subsidize wages, which are already comparable to the industry standard rate of pay,” he said.

The company added that company management had no say in how the service fee would be distributed in the future.

“The outcome of the program will ultimately be decided by the 700 or so employees themselves as they nominate and vote for all of the committee members,” Famously Proper said in a statement. “The company cannot influence or comment on the outcome of a decision the employee committee will make.”