This London restaurant chain has banned diners from using card payments to tip staff

The days of tipping waiters in restaurants could be coming to an end. One restaurant chain in London has banned diners from tipping staff by card, instead adding an optional 15 percent ‘brand fee’ at the end of every bill. For shame. 

Ping Pong, a dim sum chain with five outposts including in Soho, Southbank and Marylebone, has forbidden tipping by card just three months before a new bill will come in making it compulsory to give all tips to staff. 

Ping Pong said the new brand charge would go towards ‘franchise fees and other brand-related expenditure’, replacing the 12.5 percent service charge, of which 90 percent used to go to staff. Staff at Ping Pong will now have to rely on tips purely given in cash. 

AJT Dimsum, the parent company, said the new fee was being trialled as an alternative to increasing menu prices. AJT said it will be ‘reviewing all constructive feedback before making a final decision’ in June. Then it will either make the fee compulsory, increase menu prices or implement a combination of both. 

AJT said the wages at Ping Pong were raised by 19 percent from £10.42 to a minimum of £12.44 an hour – £1 above the new legal minimum. This pay rise will ‘match earnings they would have received with service charge distribution’, AJT claimed. The company also said teams would have the chance to earn an extra £1 or £2 an hour in bonuses if they meet sales targets. 

Bryan Simpson, the lead organiser for hospitality at the Unite union, said the paltry pay rise in exchange for a ‘healthy per hour tip rate’ was ‘a complete slap in the face’ for staff. 

He said: ‘Ping Pong’s decision to effectively deny workers tips by cynically changing the service charge to a “brand charge” in order to circumvent the new fair tips legislation is one of the most blatant examples of tips theft that we’ve come across as the union for restaurant and bar workers.

‘No matter what senior management call it, customers will assume that this 15 percent is a tip that should go to workers, but it won’t. That is completely disingenuous.’

AJT Dimsum said: ‘The business is very proud of the reputation it has as a good employer and, despite the many recent headwinds, has acted with integrity and honour, with a high priority placed on employee retention.

‘The benefit to our employees will be stability of wages throughout the year, reducing the impact of seasonality and the higher wages will also mean improved access to financial products such as loans and mortgages.’

Here’s Time Out’s list of the best dim sum restaurants that don’t have a ‘brand fee’.

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