Wahaca waiter won't foot bill after customers dine and dash

A waiter at Wahaca won't have to pick up the bill after a table he was serving ate their dinner and ran out without paying.

Customer Sarah Hayward ate at the Kentish Town branch of the Mexican restaurant and said she heard a staff member would have the unpaid bill from one of his tables docked from his wages.

She tweeted: "Hi @wahaca just eaten in your Kentish Town restaurant for the last time. Ppl next to us left without paying and their server is made to foot the bill from his wages. Apparently company policy. Utterly shameful employment practice. Food's great, company is crap."

She also tagged Wahaca founder, Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers.

However, Wahaca said the employee would not be charged for the bill, tweeting back: "This is not our standard policy, only in cases of total negligence will an individual be held accountable, which is very rare.

"This will not be deducted from the waiter & we will be looking into this case and making sure we have clarity on our policy internally."

Ms Miers also replied, saying: "Guys, It is absolutely not standard policy for waiters to be deducted, only in cases of total negligence which this certainly does not seem to be.

"We are a company that looks after our staff and I am very proud of this. This waiter has unfortunately not understood the policy..."

She said the waiter was charged £3 on the £40 bill, but was then reimbursed as Ms Miers said the incident did not amount to gross negligence.

Ms Miers added: "It is a crazy world where one is hung before even being asked a question... it really saddens me that people are so quick to presume the worst...

"I am delighted it was brought up as it means we can get to the bottom of it and rectify a mistake. I am just upset that everyone presumes we are a dastardly company when we spend so much of our time worrying about our staff welfare."

Ms Hayward suggested the company's website's feedback form wasn't enough for her to get a quick response which is why she tweeted instead of sending an email.

Reports of similar policies are fairly common, but many of the country's biggest chains, like Pizza Express and Carluccio's, deny that it would be standard policy to deduct runners' bills from wages.

In 2017, Buzzfeed News reported that Zizzi had a company policy which meant waiters could be docked wages or tips for similar errors or for accidentally undercharging a table.

Zizzi said its staff were comfortable with the policies and that they were reviewed every six months.

Philip Landau, employment lawyer at Landau Zeffertt Weir Solicitor, told The Guardian in 2012 that similar instances could be classed as "unlawful deduction of wages".

According to NI Direct, deductions for instances where a customer has left without paying could only be made if there was a current written agreement with the employee.