17 June 2019
If diners leave without paying, should the waiter serving them foot the bill?
That’s the question being asked by many this morning after a tweet went viral and hit the headlines. A customer at a Wahaca restaurant in Kentish Town overheard a waiter being told that he must settle the difference for the meal that a table he was serving ‘ate and ran’.
The tweet called out this ‘company policy’ as “utterly shameful”. I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree. Working in hospitality is challenging enough without practices like this.
Do shop assistants have to pay for stolen stock?
As I drove into work this morning, I listened to the BBC 5Live debate about the story. I am shocked to hear that it is a topic for debate.
The greatest leadership lesson that I have learned over the years is that people are rarely motivated to do better if they are constantly in fear of being punished. It is far more effective to motivate people with rewards rather than punishing them for something going wrong. In this instance, how can they avoid a table of people running out on them, if they are serving more than one party at a time in a busy restaurant – it is almost impossible!
If Wahaca is reflective of the wider hospitality industry, wages are usually a low to begin with especially if employees are part-time students working at the weekend for example. So rather than docking a wage for ‘eat and run’ occurrences, why not offer a reward or bonus for time without this happening for example?
Hi @wahaca just eaten in your Kentish Town restaurant for the last time.
Ppl next to us left without paying and their server is made to foot the bill from his wages. Apparently company policy. Utterly shameful employment practice.
Food’s great, company is crap.@thomasinamiers
— Sarah Hayward (@Sarah_Hayward) June 15, 2019
I recently chatted with Sacha Lord, Warehouse Project and Parklife founder, for a podcast. Sacha is a real champion of rights in the hospitality industry which are often overlooked. He highlighted so many cases of tips being withheld by the restaurant or bar, and of charges being docked from wages for simple mistakes.
You don’t hear of this in other industries so why is it continuing in hospitality?
Thankfully, Wahaca reported to the press that this isn’t policy for the company unless it is a case of gross negligence, and that the waiter in question was charged £3 on a £40 bill which was then reimbursed.
Whilst some are saying that the tweet has led to the restaurant being sentenced before the facts are fully known, I think it has raised an important question for the hospitality industry and brought to light a practice that should be long in the past.
What are your thoughts? Should workers be docked wages for mistakes? Why is the hospitality industry so different to others in this way?