Bill’s tipping scandal: What are other Norfolk restaurants’ policies?

Bill's restaurant tipping policy. The Norwich restaurant at The Back of the Inns.Picture: ANTONY KEL

Bill's restaurant tipping policy. The Norwich restaurant at The Back of the Inns.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Our investigation yesterday raised concerns a Norwich restaurant was allowing its customers to believe their service charge payments are going to staff, when they are in fact being kept by the company. But can people be reassured other restaurants in the region are not doing the same thing?

Most people have at some point had to try to scrape through their late teens and early twenties by relying on a wage that leaves much to be desired.

And that is why the majority of people are more than happy to leave some form of tip to their waiter or waitress as a reward for a good dining experience.

It is likely that person is on the minimum wage, has a university or college course to pay for and could do with the help.

But what if you found out that the money was not being passed on, instead simply ending up in the hands of the company which owned the restaurant, effectively an extra charge for your meal?

Roger Hickman

Roger Hickman - Credit: Archant Norfolk

It would leave a bitter taste in the mouth. These are the concerns raised by staff talking to this paper yesterday, regarding Bill's, which is based in the Back of the Inns, Norwich, after they claimed they did not see anything from service charges, despite promises to the contrary.

The employees also claim to have been told to say they do in fact receive the service charge money if asked and that it was common for managers to pull staff aside and question why customers had chosen not to pay the service charge, if it was removed.

Bill's, which has faced similar accusations at some of its restaurants elsewhere in the country, denied the claims and said employees received all of the service charge money, once tax had been removed.

Most Read

However Unite, Britain's biggest trade union, has called on Bill's to investigate the allegations.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen Logo

Gourmet Burger Kitchen Logo - Credit: Supplied

We spoke to 17 restaurants around Norfolk, with the distribution of service charges and tips differing slightly depending on where you eat.

Most businesses we spoke to, be it a multi-national chain or a local family-owned business, use some sort of pool system where service charges are collected and divided between staff.

According to these businesses, this policy enables all employees to enjoy a share of the pie, recognising the role each plays in your dining experience.

For award-winning Norwich chef Roger Hickman, there is no middle ground.

Nando's logo

Nando's logo - Credit: Archant

The owner of Roger Hickman's Restaurant, in Upper St Giles Street, believed staff should keep all money they made in tips and service charges.

'It's out of order for businesses to take the money, because the customer thinks that waiting staff are getting the tips,' he said.

'I understand that if it goes through the credit card machine the employer's got to pay a percentage of that charge, but it's horrendous that employers might actually keep it all.'

At his own restaurant, staff receive all of the 12.5pc service charge once tax is taken out of the equation.

With more than 20 years' experience in the hospitality industry, Mr Hickman said he quickly learnt how important employees were to businesses success.

'At the end of the day you can't run a business without good staff,' he said. 'If you abuse your staff and are not fair with them you end up having a massive turnover because they just don't want to be there. For me, because I'm in the kitchen, having good people on the floor is a reflection on me, so it's in my best interests to treat staff well.'

We asked people in Norwich if, when they dined out, they felt confident their tips were going to the right people.

Katelyn Kennedy, from Norwich, said: 'Usually, I do feel quite confident. I also feel happy if it's not fully going to one person as where I've worked in the past it has been shared across the work space.'

Linda Arnold, from Bury St Edmunds, said: 'To be safe I only give it straight to the waiting staff. I don't give a service charge.'

But William Key, also from Norwich, said he did have concerns about the issue, adding: 'Although I know that at many restaurants the money goes in a pot, I know some restaurants where the money goes to the management who then decide where it goes. Personally I'd prefer it went to the staff and if not, that we know about it.'



Have no service charge. Tips go to



- Pakefield Street, Lowestoft

Do not include a service charge. Staff receive the tips.


- Guildhall Hill, Norwich

Tips are spilt equally and chefs get a share.


- Gurney Rd, Mousehold Heath, Norwich

No service charge. An offer of gratuity on card machines, with 20pc going to the chefs and at the end of the month they get a bonus depending on how many hours they've done. The rest is split between front of house staff evenly.


- Exchange Street, Norwich

No automatic service charge. Tips are shared among all staff in the restaurant, with front of house receiving a bit more.


- Upper St Giles Street, Norwich

The service charge is usually 12.5pc, which at the end of the month is collected and split equally between kitchen staff and front of house.


- St Benedicts Street, Norwich

No service charge, all cash tips passed on to staff. A system for credit-card tips which are then broken down depending on hours worked and whether employees are part-time or full-time.


- Chapelfield Gardens, Norwich

Pedros declined to comment.


- St George's Street, Norwich

No service charge, although there is an optional one of 10pc for tables of 10 or more.

All tips go evenly to the staff, whether they're credit card or cash.


Do not take tips from credit or debit cards and all money given in cash tips goes directly to restaurant staff.


Each restaurant operates a tronc system for service charges. A tronc is a special pay arrangement used to distribute tips, gratuities and service charges. It's the policy the government recommends eateries use. Everything goes to the staff, 70pc for front of house and 30pc for back of house. There's no admin fees or charges, the company changed its policy last year.


A 12.5pc service charge is added to bills for parties of six people or more. Front-of-house staff receive their credit card tips

and service charges but make a contribution of 2pc of their net sales from that shift. The contribution is distributed between kitchen, bar and door staff to encourage teamwork and ensure they

also benefit financially. All cash tips stay with the front-of-house staff. No admin charges are deducted at any stage by the company.


Do not ask for a service charge. People can opt to put tips in the jar at the till when they pay, which are then divided between staff members on shift. GBK doesn't take anything from this.


Credit card tips and any discretionary service charge (for parties of eight or more) paid are distributed to employees in the restaurant through the company's payroll system. Any tips paid in cash are retained by the waiter.


Do not operate a service charge (other than for large parties) or ask waiters to pool and share tips. 100pc of tips go to staff. A proportion of tips are shared with non-waiting back of house staff but not management at any level.


Does not add a service charge to bills. Restaurant teams, both chefs and servers, receive all of the tips earned during a shift. 100pc of all tips received are given to the cashier and at the end of a shift the total is calculated and shared amongst the employees who have worked on that shift, on a basis agreed by the staff.


All tips go to team members.


Any optional service charge left goes to the staff in the restaurant where it was given; however £2 per shift is deducted per team member as staff are given a meal, soft drinks and, for those who work in the evening, a drink at the end of the shift. All remaining service charge is then distributed directly amongst all restaurant staff.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter