The Front

Gratuities not expected

Who pockets the tips you leave after a meal? If you believe it’s always a deserving staff, think again. Words: Barry Shelby

he menu at Braidwoods in Dalry offers three remarkable

words: 'Gratuities not expected.‘ A charming gesture from

this Michelin-starred restaurant some twenty miles south- west of Glasgow. although given Braidwoods‘ qualities you doubt people follow its lead. But what if the identical declaration gratuities not expected was offered by restaurateurs to their own waiters? It seems. in some cases. this is indeed what happens in Scotland: restaurants. not staff, pocket the tips. In a country that takes a bit of stick for the lack of courteous and prompt service. you might well mutter ‘little wonder'. What incentive do near minimum wages combined with the prospect of no additional reward for service offer to restaurant workers? It's eaSy: none.

While The List has not made an exhaustive investigation. we have taken anecdotal evidence from disgruntled staff and seen for ourselves rather dubious practices. the most common of which is restaurants not passing along tips obtained via credit card payments. ‘When it comes to credit card tips. I don't see any reason why the staff can't get them.‘ one bar manager told us. “If we put a credit card till receipt for $224 in the till. but the food bill only came to 222. the staff would just take out 92 in cash and put it in the tips jar. Otherwise. the till w0uld be over. But I suppose it depends on what buttons are on your till.'

We have heard of at least one place alleged to pocket all gratuities. Surely that is inexcusable.

Liza Robinson. manager of Blue in Edinburgh. said she runs a system in which tips are pooled and paid to the staff monthly. ‘Our credit card tips are included in the pool but I am aware of places where they are not included.‘ she says. ‘This is justified by the staff being on a higher rate of. say. £6 per hour. so the restaurant keeps the credit card tips to go towards the higher wages bill.‘

She did have some sympathy for other approaches: 'A restaurant might pay a baSIC salary of 212.000 but guarantee a wage of £15,000 made up in tips.‘ she said. 'If this system wasn't in place then the restaurant‘s wages bill would be higher and restaurateurs w0uld charge higher prices on tl ie food. So whichever system you use. it's the customer who pays.‘

But those restaurants that take the higher wage. lower tip route are denying diners the chance to acknowledge good treatment.

Good service deserves good tips, but who ets the money?

Surely we expect tips to go to the people responsible: the staff.

Our advice. as ever. is to be savw customers. Watch out for gratuities automatically added to bills. You have the right to some them out and pay less if you were dissatisfied or more if service was excellent. Also. when paying by credit card, inquire where any service charge goes. You may want to tip in cash. Linda Richardson assistant manager at Loop in Glasgow explained that all their tips are shared. but credit card tips go onto the wages bill and are taxed. “The amount that the staff end up with is less than they w0uld be if they were tipped in cash.‘ she said.

We are not trying to take money out of the pockets of restaurateurs. Our belief is that their trade will increase if service is Smart. informed. engaged and friendly. We tire of stroppy and lackadaisical staff shuffling through shifts. But unless the rewards of exceptional work tips are passed directly to them. we have scant expectations that performance and attitude shall improve. (Additional research by Low‘se Prendergast)

Burns, religion, wheels and a ruSh

The festival season gets underway with a host of new events. Words: Mark Fisher

Improbable Theatre towers forth at Big In Falkirk

here's nothing Scotland's arts

chiefs like more than a festival.

And even before the bumper packages of T in the Park. Gig on the Green and Edinburgh in August loom forth, the 00untry is awash with smaller. but no less intriguing multi-aits events.

Ayr is the setting for Burns and a' that

(Saturday 27 April—Sunday 5 May). a celebration of contemporary Scottish Culture taking its inspiration from Robert Burns. Key events include a gala concert with the RSNO. Karen Mathieson. Eddi Reader. Phil Cunningham. Aly Bain and Jean Redpath (Friday 3 May); a SOund and light installation from the nva organisation called Fall From Light (Sunday 28 April—Sunday 5 May. see preview in Art); and a programme of contemporary Scottish world music. Call 01292 678100.

Meanwhile in Glasgow. St Mary's Catherdral is celebrating the end of its twenty year restoration. Feast runs thr0ughout May and includes performances by Edwin Morgan. the Edinburgh Quartet and the Hebrides Ensemble. as well as photography. art. theatre and film. Tickets 0141 560 8217.

Then. it's time for Big In Falkirk (24 May- 3 June). featuring the UK's only national busking competition. the royal opening for the Millennium Link at the Faikirk Wheel. and Improbable Theatre's spectaCuIar Sticky (pictured). Most events will be free.

Overlapping that will be the Rush (27 May—3 June). a festival of Edinburgh performers. bringing together over 100 acts from the local muSic. poetry. cabaret and Club scene in venues around the Old Town. Call 0131 2797.

Dispirit of Christmas

Comig soon _

I Had to happen. suppose. Fat Les is back to torture eardrums again with another rousing anthem to gee up England's World Cup effort. “Who Invented Fish And Chips (Pop It In The Onion Bag)’ features Blur boys Dave Rowntree and Alex James. Britait loon Damien Hirst. Spicer Mel c and former funnyman Keith Allen . . . Also kind of inevitable is Billy Bob Thornton getting set to play the lead role in Bad Santa. The story of a Christmas con man is to be filmed by Ghost World director Terry Zwigoff. . . Among the highlights for the September—May Royal Lyceum season are Siobhan Redmond in her prime as Miss Jean Brodie, a new production of popular West End show Art and the premiere of Michel Tfemblay's If Only starring Eileen McCallum. . . Harry Enfleld is returning to the BBC with a new comedy drama Celeb in which he plays an ageing pop star whose wife. played by Amanda Holden. is obsessed with fame . . . Remember the Yorkshire Women's Institute members who produced a storm with their nudie calendar? Well. Julie Walters and Helen Mirren are being tipped to play two of the disrobed ladies for a movie to be shot in LA. London and Yorkshire. Rumours that it would be called Full Monty 2 have been rebuffed.