Inquiry into claims managers took tips at Mexican chain Topalabamba

Glasgow-based restaurant chain Topolabamba is to conduct an internal investigation after staff submitted a formal grievance against the company, claiming managers were secretly pocketing hard-earned tips.

Topolabamba, Lothian Road. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Three quarters of workers at the chain’s Edinburgh and Glasgow branches signed the grievance led by Unite the Union, which claims that managers at the two stores are taking home over a thousand pounds a month – with no transparency over how much is made in tips given to floor staff by customers.

Staff also claim that they are being charged for breakages and errors out of tips, which although not illegal, 
is frowned upon in the industry.

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The grievance added that around a third of tips are currently given to the kitchen, but not distributed evenly, with the head chef deciding how they are handed out to workers behind the scenes.

Addressed to company bosses Mario Gizzi and Paul Sloan, the grievance states: “Tips are being used to top-up the wages of salaried staff including senior managers and operations managers. This means that the lowest paid staff are effectively subsidising management salaries to the tune of thousands of pounds per month.”

It added: “Customers are completely unaware that a large proportion of the tip they give is not going directly to staff.”

Most restaurants and hospitality businesses have a “tronc” – a common fund into which tips and service charges are paid for distribution to the staff – but workers claim that they are not told how much they have earned in tips in a week, or where the money is distributed.

Screenshots of messages sent by managers to staff seen by The Scotsman also showed that mistakes made by busy servers were compensated for out of the tronc fund.

Bryan Simpson, industrial organiser for Unite Hospitality, said: “Our members at Topolabamba have had enough of tens of thousands of pounds of their hard-earned tips being used to cover company losses and to top up the salaries of managers (some of whom don’t even work in the restaurant). They are taking a collective stand and they have our full support.

A spokesman for Topolobamba said: “Now that we’ve been made aware of this issue, we will be conducting an internal enquiry