Are restaurants allowed to keep tips paid on card? 🤔

If you work in a restaurant, cafe, or bar, you’ll know the situation: when a service charge is added to the bill, customers stop tipping in cash.

After that, the restaurant keeps the money from the service charge. Or they give some of it to staff but still keep a percentage for themselves.

Either way, it means no tips or lower tips. Is there anything you can do?

This article explains:

  • the law on restaurants keeping tips paid on card
  • how to persuade management to share the tips with staff
  • how to campaign to change the law so that restaurants have to share tips with staff
  • how you can help when you’re the customer
  • which restaurant chains share tips with staff and which keep them.

1) If customers pay tips on card, the restaurant doesn’t have to share it with staff

The bad news is that if a restaurant or a bar takes a service charge on card, they’re not legally obliged to share it with staff.

2) Some restaurants do give service charges paid on card to the staff though

Some restaurants do give the whole service charges paid on card to the staff though.

We’re collecting a list of places which share the whole of the service charge paid on card with the staff, and a list of places which don’t.

So if you’re deciding where to work next, have a look. It’s at the bottom of the article.

3) Talk to your coworkers

If you want to try to persuade the place where you work to share the whole service charge with the staff, the first step is to talk to a coworker about it.

See what they think, and then together, talk to others and decide whether you’re in a strong enough position to persuade your management to change what the restaurant does.

4) Talk to your manager

If you are confident, the first step is to say you’d like to talk to your manager about something and then agree a time. Then don’t go by yourself. Have that conversation with three or four of your coworkers there at the same time.

Ask them if they can change and start to share the service charge paid on card with the staff.


The place where you work might already have signed up to do that without knowing it! Why? Because every restaurant and café which is a member of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has promised to share service charge paid on card with staff. 

In the UK, 26,000 pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafés in the UK are members, including JD Wetherspoon, Spirit, Casual Dining Group, Carluccio’s, All Bar One, Slug & Lettuce, TGI Fridays, Wahaca, Wagamama, Harvester.

In September 2017 the ALMR set out rules for how tips should be organised. They said tips should be organised through troncs (tip distribution systems) which are independent of management, transparent, and fair. They also said that if there is a problem you should be able to dispute it.

So when you talk to your manager you can mention the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers. They might already have signed up these rules. More info here. To find out whether the place where you work is a member, visit or call them on 0208 579 2080.

Not all places are members of the ALMR. But next time you are looking for a job, you could look for one somewhere that is part of the ALMR.

If that happens, don’t be shy to mention it to the place you’re leaving!

5) If they refuse, decide what to do together

If the manager refuses, the next step is to sit down with your coworkers together and decide what you want to do.

If you decide together you’re in a strong enough position to do so, one option is to set up a petition on the Organise Platform at

If you do a campaign, make sure to use Twitter, Facebook, newspapers, journalists and friends of friends. You might be able to embarrass the management into changing their mind.

If you’re a journalist who might want to write about these stories, let us know if you’d like to have your name appear here at or on the thread.

6) The best way to get a restaurant to pay the service charge to staff is to join the campaign

Some of the restaurants which do share service charges with staff only started doing it because the Unite Union campaigned to get them to.

Dave Turnbull was one of the people who kicked off that campaign. On our ‘Ask‘ forum he writes:

We had a campaign in 2016 against the admin fee that Pizza Express were charging. We kicked that off on National Waiters Day last year, in May. A few months later, Pizza Express and Giraffe backed down and stopped charging the admin fee. It only took a few months!

So because of that campaign, thousands of waiters got an increase in their income by 8% to 10% of the tips!

Dave is the London Regional Officer with responsibility for the hospitality sector within Unite the union. You can read his whole answer about this here.

If you want to get your restaurant or bar to start sharing tips with staff, contact Unite about getting involved with their campaign. You can find out more here and get involved by emailing

Unite are also campaigning to change the law, to make it illegal for restaurants to keep tips paid on card.

7) When you’re the customer, make sure the staff get the tips

Here at Howbox, we don’t just want to help you solve your problem, we also want to help you improve the system for independent workers.

In the long term, the best way to make restaurants share the service charge with staff is to make them feel that customers expect them to, and if they don’t, they might lose business.

That won’t happen overnight, but you can do your bit when you’re out at a restaurant or a bar. When the bill comes, ask if the staff get the service charge.

If the answer’s no, tip in cash so you know that it will go to the staff.

8) The Admin Charge list of pride and list of shame

If you’re deciding where to work, pick a place which pays its staff 100% of their service charge.

List of pride

These places share the whole of their service charges with staff:

Ask, Bella Italia, Belgo, Café Rouge, Carluccio’s Chiquita, Chiquitos, Frankie and Benny’s, Garfunkels, Giraffe, Jamie’s Italian, Las Iguanas, Pizza Express, Strada, TGI Friday, Wagamama, Zizzi

List of shame

These places don’t share the whole of the service charge with the staff:

Bill’s, Cote Brasserie, Fortnum & Mason, Harrods, Le Gavroche, The Ivy Collection, Wahaca


If you know other places which should be on this list, or if you see anything wrong with it, don’t be shy, tell us! Email us at or share your experience on the ‘Ask’ section here.



Has this information helped you? Is there anything wrong with this? Let us know!

Does the place where you work pay you the service charge paid on card? Did you ask the place where you work to change what they do with the service charge? Did they change their policy? Do you have any advice you can share?

Join the discussion in the ‘Ask‘ forum, here.

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