Restaurant tips should go to staff not bosses
YOU would think staff automatically get all the tips you leave after a meal in a restaurant.
They've cheerily introduced themselves and recommended the best dishes on the menu.
They've served you with a warm smile, exercised patience when the kids have bugged them with dozens of requests and they've offered that top up cup of coffee with dessert.
When the bill arrives and the option 'gratuity' appears, you instantly agree.
It was a good meal, great service and we're all leaving happy, including the waiter - right?
But in many instances that nice server, who worked his or her socks off during the 12-hour shift, actually never receives the 10 per cent tip you left.
Some restaurants have been found to be not giving staff the full amount of tips received. Or in some cases even hanging onto the whole tip altogether.
Last summer, some of our most popular restaurant chains were criticised for their poor tipping practices and were accused of keeping all or part of the service charge rather than giving it to staff.
But that could be about to change.
A consultation has been launched this week following demands that restaurants should be forced to hand over all the tips people leave for the staff they were intended for.
Changes could also mean restaurants may be forced to scrap the discretionary service charge added to bills automatically, some currently add up to 15 per cent to their bills.
The proposals would see clearer policies as to where tips go as well as putting an end to unfair tipping practices.
My first job was as a waitress in a bar and restaurant when I was 16. I remember the first shift when I lifted the tray and order book and began to wait on tables.
I can't recall how much money I earned in tips that night, probably not much as it was a Monday, but I remember a 50 pence coin placed in my hand that was my entry into the world of tips.
As a bar waitress I kept all my own tips, every last penny, all placed in a glass with my name on it behind the beer pumps.
When I progressed onto the restaurant shifts, we all shared our tips - divided equally among the staff working that particular day.
There was no question about us not keeping the money we had earned, we would have kicked up a stink if our bosses had taken a cut, never mind the entire amount.
Through my later school days and university education, my tips afforded me that little bit more independence. I would store the money accrued in a large money box, raiding it now and again for a night out or a new pair of jeans.
It was my mini savings account and ultimately helped towards a deposit for my first car.
I know from that experience that tips can make a crucial difference to staff, especially those on the minimum wage.
For big restaurant chains to have been sneaking tips earned from low-paid staff for their own profit and bank balance is disgraceful.
It's also an unfair way of treating customers - those people who believed they had given a genuine tip to a member of staff for their service.
Depending on the outcome of the current consultation, restaurants may soon be unable to offer the gratuity option when paying by card and rules may be brought in for restaurants to spell out their tipping policies.
Yes, I know sceptics ask 'why should waiters be given tips when other workers receive no extra money for doing the jobs they do?'.
But think of the attributes a waiter or waitress requires - the humour, hard work and let's not forget the patience. Are we really that stingy to resent giving that little bit extra to our waiter for the evening?
Of course, the money can be withheld if the service is bad or the attitude of the server is poor. But why should restaurant owners pocket the funds?
Tipping is not just about generosity, it's about gratitude for good service and it's about doing what's right and fair for your fellow worker.
Lidl Northern Ireland has teamed up with the Irish News to give one lucky reader the chance to win a family pass for two adults and two children to this year's Balmoral Show plus £50 of Lidl vouchers.
Lidl will once again return to the Balmoral Show from May 11-13 and are calling on visitors to stop off at the Lidl stand (B40, Park Central East) where there will be fun for all the family.
The Lidl Green Barn will be a hive of exciting activity, with sampling from local suppliers showcasing a wide range of tasty products, fun cookery demonstrations with celebrity chef ambassador, Ian Orr and lively performances by music sensation, Marty Mone.
The Lidl Community Works team will also be on site to tell you all about the amazing work they did in the community throughout 2015 as well as promoting activities that will be going on throughout Northern Ireland this year.
To be in with a chance to win, simply email your name, address and telephone number – along with the answer to the question below - to firstname.lastname@example.org
Closing date for entries is Monday May 9 at noon (a day earlier than usual). Note: Winner will need to collect their prize from The Irish News.
(Q) What date does this year's Balmoral Show begin?
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The winner of last week's Merchant Hotel competition is Brigid Donnelly from Newry.
Ahoy there - This year's Sea Bangor event, which is taking place on June 4 and 5, will see the spectacular tall ship Mercedes sail into the Co Down town and moor alongside the Eisenhower Pier. Tickets for the maritime event are on sale from www.visitardsandnorthdown.com
Blush - Autograph at Marks & Spencer have launched a beautiful new multi blusher. Priced at just £12.50, the 3D texture gives a pretty pink flush, while the silky soft formula gives a natural looking finish.
Twitter trolls - Chloe Madeley has revealed she faces severe criticism from internet trolls who call her body 'disgusting' and 'not feminine'. The daughter of Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, said she is 'trolled night and day'.
Cancelled - Actress Sheridan Smith has tried to shrug off difficult headlines this week. The performance of Funny Girl at London's Savoy Theatre was cancelled just 15 minutes in following a 40 minute delay with the theatre blaming a `technical fault'.
Easy Peasy Recipe
This week's Easy Peasy Recipe is meatballs with spaghetti
You will need:
350g lean beef steak mince
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 x 440g jar tomato pasta sauce
350g carrots, peeled and chopped
350g garden peas
30g cheddar cheese, finely grated
Mix together the mince, herbs and garlic, then shape into 12 balls.
Heat the oil in a pan and cook the meatballs for 10 minutes over a medium heat, turning, until golden.
Pour in the pasta sauce. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes. If the sauce is a little thick, add a few tablespoons of boiling water.
Cook the pasta in a pan of boiling water, then drain.
While the pasta is cooking, cook the carrots in another pan of boiling water for 8 minutes, adding the peas for the final 2 minutes, then drain and stir into the meatballs.
Serve the spaghetti in bowls, topped with the meatballs and tomato sauce and sprinkled with cheddar cheese.
Do you have an Easy Peasy recipe you would like to share?
Are you the queen of quiches, magnificent at muffins or can you turn out some nice scones?
If so, then we want to hear from you.
You can send your name, address, contact number and recipe (plus photo if possible) to:
Easy Peasy Recipes,
113-117 Donegall Street,