Côte, a 72-restaurant chain of brasseries in England, is in the hot seat today over alleged tip theft. It’s some pretty serious stuff: The accusations aren’t just about skimming tips (a practice even chefs like Mario Batali have been guilty of), but over stealing all of the automatic service charges added to checks — and not just stealing it, but also going so far as telling employees to point-blank lie when customers ask where gratuities go (correct response: “It is given out between workers”).
One of the waiters tells the Evening Standard that the chain keeps the 12.5 percent service fee because waiters are already paid about £8 an hour, which is more than minimum wage, and for that they “should be grateful.”
Côte denies any wrongdoing, saying that “contrary to recent press reports,” it splits the service charge among all front- and back-of-house staff. But the sense of outrage is pretty severe among industry insiders across the pond: England’s minister of business is already promising to take “a serious look” at the allegations, and a variety of stories are filtering out courtesy of Guardian restaurant critic Marina O’Loughlin: