LONDON • Television chef Michel Roux Jr has admitted that he keeps 100 per cent of the service charge added to bills at his Michelin- starred Le Gavroche restaurant, instead of distributing the cash to staff in addition to their wages.
The former MasterChef judge, who this week apologised for paying chefs beneath the legal minimum wage following a Guardian investigation, has revealed he treats the 13 per cent service charge "as revenue".
With the fixed-price menu with wine at his Mayfair, London, restaurant costing £212 (S$380) a person, it is likely to amount to several thousand pounds a week.
The government said earlier this year it believes that all discretionary payments for service, after tax where appropriate, should be received by the worker. It ran a consultation this summer and said it was considering prohibiting employers from taking any cut to provide greater protection to workers.
The issue at Le Gavroche arose when chefs, angered at their illegally low pay, complained last month that their situation was made worse by not sharing in the service charge that many diners assume supplements staff wages.
Roux was fully aware that to share the service charge is what the public expects... We don't do this job for the money, but he makes out that he shares this money and he doesn't.
A CHEF FROM LE GAVROCHE on the restaurant's owner Michel Roux Jr
At the time, a spokesman for the restaurant said: "All Le Gavroche staff, front of house and kitchen, share in the 13 per cent discretionary service charge."
Now, following further questioning, the restaurant has made clear the service charge goes into restaurant revenues. No member of staff receives any of it over and above his basic wages.
"Wages are not dependent on fluctuating levels of discretionary service charges or cash tips," the spokesman said. "Gratuities form just one part of the payroll each month. Service charge is treated as revenue and the restaurant pays all taxes accordingly."
One chef who spoke to The Guardian said: "Roux was fully aware that to share the service charge is what the public expects... We don't do this job for the money, but he makes out that he shares this money and he doesn't."
A spokesman for Roux said in the original statement he was trying to make clear that the waiters and chefs were treated equally in the matter of service charge, not that they received any of it in addition to their wages. Roux has also said in future, the 13 per cent service charge will be included in customers' bills, although again, none of it will go to staff in addition to their wages.
"There is too much ambiguity between service charges and tips," he said. "So, from the end of January 2017, we are going 'service included'. This will be marked on the bill and menus as to make it clear that no further payment or gratuity is needed and credit card slips will be closed."
Roux said this week he was "embarrassed and sorry" after The Guardian revealed he was paying chefs as little as £5.50 an hour when they were working 68 hours a week.
But he also recalled his own training in Paris in 1976, saying he slept on his grandmother's couch and washed in the kitchen sink. "Did I look at my payslip?" he said. "Not once."
According to a government consultation on service charge and tipping, 61 per cent of diners believe staff should keep 100 per cent of service charges. It followed media reports of several restaurant chains keeping more of the service charge than many customers would expect.
The British Hospitality Association, of which Le Gavroche is a member, has proposed restaurants should be legally required to tell customers how service charges and tips are distributed among staff.