Lunch in Winchester - Forte Kitchen

Forte Kitchen Tipping Policy

Some of you may have noticed there has been a lot in the news recently regarding restaurant and their service charge/tipping policy/gratuities or whatever it’s called! In fact there is a difference between them and for the sake of fellow geeks like myself I have posted the differences at the end of this article.

Hello, I’m Naomi, and as some of you may know Olly (co-owner and Head Chef) and myself are the founders of the Forte Kitchen.

One of the areas we had to research when starting our own restaurant was to do with employees and in particular how our tipping policy would work.

Olly and I had an aged old argument regarding tips in restaurant. We both met in a kitchen in Brighton many years ago when I was a waitress and he was a Chef. The tipping policy in the place at the time was that 70% of cash tips were kept by the server and 30% was shared out between the bar and the kitchen. As I was a server I obviously loved this as some nights I could pocket over £100 just for myself. Olly obviously felt differently being part of the kitchen, he would barely make half of this in a weekend! I felt it was fair as the server is the person on the front line, the person who can make or break the restaurant experience and so the one who deserved the majority of the tips. Well I am quite happy to admit I was young and naive (Olly this is going down for all to see) and that I was wrong!

Everyone in the restaurant team is equally responsible for the diners experience and as those of you who work in hospitality know, each part of process is highly important. From the person who washes the plates and cups so they are beautifully presentable, to the chef’s cooking the outstanding food, to the servers serving it. At Forte Kitchen each and everyone one of our team is so important to producing the Forte experience. Therefore if a diner does decide to leave a tip because they have enjoyed the experience – whether on cash or card 100% goes in the tip bowl and is shared out equally amongst all of the team.

Olly and I, do not take any tips, a decision which was easy for us. That is why I felt compelled to write this blog article as I am shocked that we seem to be in the minority with this. My advice is for everyone to start making some noise about this and start to ask for more transparency in regards to restaurants tipping policy. Then hopefully we will shame those who don’t already into giving their team what is rightfully theirs.

Below are some of the excuses I have heard about why a restaurant does not give 100% of the tips to the team.

The excuses I have heard and my views;


  • We take a small percentage of the team’s tips for breakages etc.. NO excuse me but I worked breakages (or depreciation) into our budget and I did not rely on thinking we could take something for this budget out of the team’s tips.


  • We use our service charge to pay our team above the minimum wage…NO how can you rely on a certain amount of service charge to pay your team more. Either just pay your team more and give them the service charge or just pay the minimum wage and give them the well-earned service charge – ALL of it.


  • There is a cost to processing card tips of which we take a small percentage of the team’s tips to cover our costs…YES here I know as I researched it myself that there is unfortunately a cost that card suppliers charge us (the owners of the restaurant) for processing card tips. BUT we found a way round it as we did not think it was fair. So, we don’t have an option for tipping on card – if you want to leave a tip on card we put the whole amount through at the beginning and the take out the excess from the till. For example, the bill is £22 and you want to leave an extra £2 so we put £24 through the card machine and then take the £2 out of the till so it goes in the team’s communal tip bowl. Thus ensuring 100% of card gratuities goes to the team.


Below as I promised are the differences between service charge/tips/gratuities and cover charges for those of you who want to wow your fellow restaurant diners, with your very interesting specialised restaurant knowledge, next time you’re out having dinner 😉

Service Charge

An amount added to the customer’s bill before it is presented to the customer. A service charge is almost always based on a percentage of the bill. If it is ‘discretionary’ or ‘suggested’ the customer is totally free to make payment or not.

Tips and Gratuities

Tips and gratuities are voluntary payments given by the customer, over and above the amount of the bill (and any service charge) and being of the nature of a personal reward from the customer to the worker. Usually, tips are monies left in cash, whereas gratuities (or card tips) are payments made electronically through a card terminal.

Cover Charge

A fixed charge per customer which is usually mandatory. Mandatory charges must be stated on tariffs or, in the case of restaurants, menus.

I cannot stress enough whatever you may call it, we strongly believe that anything left that is called a service charge/tip/gratuity/cover charge should 100% go to the team – NO EXCUSES.

Thank you for reading 🙂 and get in touch with any comments or views you may have.