Celebrity chef Andi Oliver’s east London restaurant business has admitted taking weeks to hand over at least £6,000 in tips after staff say they downed tools in a dispute over pay.
Up to 20 staff at Wadadli Kitchen and Wadadli Roadside in Hackney, both of which are currently closed, said they had received only a portion of the payment owed after writing to Oliver’s business partner, Garfield Hackett, in November saying they were going on strike.
They said at the time: “We ask for nothing more in return than what we are rightfully owed.” They estimate they were owed up to £9,000.
The restaurant, co-founded by Oliver, who is the host on the BBC’s Great British Menu, charged customers for service on top of their bill and customers were also able to add tips.
At present, there is no legal requirement to distribute such non-cash tips or service charges unless a worker’s contract states they will be distributed as part of their remuneration.
However, the government has pledged to ban restaurants from keeping the service charge after numerous cases of staff losing out.
Wadadli Kitchen admitted it had been slow to pay the service charge. It said the restaurant had closed after the end of the season, and because of government measures after a planned winter barbecue in late November rather than because of any strike. It said that two members of staff continued to work for the business and two had been employed at some point in recent weeks.
It said £6,000 was owed and half of this had been paid in October and the other half in January. It said staff had been contacted with an explanation in December.
The December letter to workers said management would get a third of the service charge with 70% of the rest going to waiting staff and 30% to the kitchen team.
But one worker said the team had expected the service charge to be evenly split between kitchen and front of house staff and “there are still part-time team members who haven’t seen a penny”. The worker said the team had expected the restaurant to be open for at least a year.
Hackett said: “Much like all other hospitality businesses, we’ve had a really hard time in the pandemic and were hoping that Christmas would help us get back on a solid footing.
“Sadly, with the surge of Omicron this was not to be. Within a matter of days, 85% of our Christmas bookings at our event space were cancelled, which in turn decimated our already stretched cash flow.
“All our staff, with the exception of three who did not invoice on time for the pay schedule, have been paid in full and we have agreed payment plans with our suppliers, but each one is happy with the arrangement and will be paid in full. We are grateful to them for understanding.”
He said payment had been delayed by waiting for government Covid support grants and the company had been forced to secure a short-term loan to ensure it could make the payments this month.
“We are embarrassed that we were not able to pay the entirety of the service charge shares immediately at the end of the pop-up run, as we are aware our staff rely on these payments.
“We know this has been a really tough time for everyone and we are deeply saddened by letting our staff down. We have poured our heart and soul into last year’s Wadadli Kitchen pop-up restaurant.”