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Sleuth 28/05/2010

Earliest iPad spotted, Strada service charge shock, Loyd Grossman shock, Sankey’s non-non smoking ban shock and flying barges shock

Published on May 28th 2010.

Sleuth 28/05/2010

Sleuth is a sideways glance at the city every week. We give £25 for every story/rumour and piece of absurdity you find for us to print. We ask for the money back if any legal action follows. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the editorial team, but they are those of Sleuth.

Disservice charge
This might be an old issue but Sleuth was in Strada in Spinningfields having a glass of wine and a morsel of food with some friends. The bill came. Sleuth had cash, the others had cards. We paid the service charge then the doubt hit. “You get most of the service charge, don’t you?” we said to the pleasant serving person. “We get about 3% to 4% - eventually,” they said. Apparently the rest goes to the company, disappears into a vast pot: it’s a bit like how drivers’ groups complain that the road tax isn’t necessarily spent on the roads.

The Strada response
Strada, when asked about the above story, denied this saying that they comply with the industry standard. The press officer read out the website details, as he couldn't remember the policy: 'Both credit card tips and service charge paid are subject to a 10% deduction for administrative and other house costs, prior to a full distribution to employees in the restaurant through the company’s payroll system. The 10% deduction covers the cost of credit card fees, payroll bureau processing costs and other direct house and administration costs.' We'll investigate further and see if there's a story here because the waiter was adamant about the tiny proportion of fees that came their way.

Lack of incentive
Sleuth asked the waiter in Strada if the story of 3-4% were true: “Where’s the incentive for you to provide good service?” The reply was, “there isn’t any, it just comes down to your own character and pride.”

Cash society
Sleuth has a new resolution. Sleuth will never ever pay a service charge again. He will ask for it to be removed from the bill. He will then pay a cash amount to the waiting on staff if they so deserve, because they get all of that. Of course the problem is that with credit and debit cards the only way to leave a tip is via plastic which then ends up elsewhere. Sleuth is going to have to think ahead, Sleuth’s going to have to take some cash with him. Of course he’s probably just best off not going to places such as Strada.

Earliest iPad discovered
Sleuth was walking through Piccadilly Gardens this morning, after listening to the BBC on the radio discussing the frenzy taking place in London as people queued for iPads. His eyes were drawn to the Sir Robert Peel statue in Piccadilly Gardens. Sleuth being wise in these things knows this dates from 1853. He stopped and was amazed at the foresight of the Victorians. The female sculpture representing the Arts and Sciences is quite clearly checking an app on her iPad. Amongst the objects at her feet – hard to spot on the pic – is a mallet. Given the reviews the iPad’s had, she’s obviously given herself an old-fashioned app to apply to the bloody thing should it prove frustrating.

First Manchester iPad spotted

Smoking ban ban
Lynda Moyo, our fashion and beauty editor, went to Sankeys Soap on the weekend with some American friends of Gordo’s. Gordo decided to go along as well. It was the Will.i.am gig and it was sweaty. They went for a break on the outside terrace, used by the smokers. A bouncer came over and asked them to get back into the hot club. “This area is for smokers only, and you’re not smoking. People are queuing to get out here for a fag,” he said threateningly. The alarmingly obvious solution? Gordo took up smoking again.

Location, location, location
Sleuth got this police notice from GMP this week. . ‘A man exposed himself to a jogger on a disused railway line in Leigh. (This happened) at about 10.45am on Tuesday 4 May 2010, as a 20-year-old woman was jogging along the old railway line at Pennington Flash off St Helen's Road, Leigh.’

Religious copy
Sleuth’s been confused by the big push in Manchester this week for media organ JC North. As Gordo who’d spotted this, said to Sleuth, “I thought it was a religious group promoting some new magazine about Jesus Christ, turns out to be the Jewish Chronicle re-launching with a Northern edition. Not sure they thought that promotion through properly.”

Flying barge
Sleuth’s odd photo of the week comes from Castlefield and was sent by a reader following an incident earlier in the month. A narrowboat on the Bridgewater Canal had an electrical fault which started a fire on the boat. According to the photographer and witness, ‘it floated down the canal like some sort of Viking pyre but I hear that no beardy canal folk were injured in the accident’. Here’s the boat taking off into the Castlefield air, destined for that eternal breaker’s yard in the sky.

Sleeping summit
Sleuth went to the Manchester Food and Drink Summit at the Ramada Piccadilly Hotel: interesting debates about independent restaurants and chains, about the future of pubs and a dreary debate about food tourism, which didn’t go anywhere at all. Sleuth arrived at noon and sat down at an empty table. A minute later, chefs David Gale (Podium), Andrew Nutter (Nutters) and Stuart Thomson (Harvey Nichols) sat down sporting pints. Gale says, “you’ve sat on the naughty table.” Ten minutes into the Food Tourism waffle, an elderly man next door leans across and taps Gale’s shoulder, “Do you mind,” he says in an angry voice, “I can’t hear the debate for you lot giggling and talking.” Ten minutes later, the man was fast asleep snoring lightly. “That was nothing to do with the debate,” whispered Sleuth, “he just wanted some kip.” "Can't blame him," said Nutter.

Grossman on the axe
The Food and Drink Summit, described above, concluded with Loyd Grossman, famous for his sauces and his foodie opinions, performing with his rock/punk band, the New Forbidden – a tenuous link but still it provided a wonderfully surreal moment and an excuse for the Grossman to not act his age. Unfortunately most people had left apart from the curious and the people who love a free bar. We’ve got a video clip of the Grossman rocking away, thrashing his ‘axe’, being posted here soon. “What’s the name of the band,” asked one punter. “The New Forbidden,” said Sleuth. “You mean The Should-be Forbidden?” replied the man putting his hands over his ears.

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18 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Karen HMay 28th 2010.

I never pay a service charge in restaurants. Always leave cash. Even if I've got less on me than the ten-fifteen per cent I usually pay, I leave cash because I know exactly where that will end up, in the waiter's pocket.

Simone13024May 28th 2010.

I would think this waiter at Strada is lying. It doesn't even sound right does it? I think 10% is a reasonable amount to take out for admin etc. The waiter obviously wanted the cash there and then so was prepared to lie to you to get it, and probably does this all day every day. I know this as I've been told this in Strada too. When it does turn out that it's not true, then perhaps we can have a character assasination of the waiter and not simply slag off the venue for scenario that the waiter quite clearly made up.

JimMay 28th 2010.

Service charges go to the restaurant in exchange for having to provide extra resources for parties etc, which is why service is usually only for parties over a certain amount.
Tips should go to the staff in exchange for exemplary service.

SleuthMay 28th 2010.

Simone, the person seemed sincere and didn't tell us anything until we asked. So it didn't affect the good service we'd had thus far. No need for that comment I reckon. Or for that anger.

Simone13024May 28th 2010.

To be honest, I think there's every need. It's been said to me when I was there with a group of friends too. If it isn't true he's only getting '3-4%', then he's lying and giving his employers a bad name. This is unfair on the restaurant.. I have no problem with him preferring cash, but to bs in order to get it is wrong. It's lying. If on one hand we slate resturants for being economical with the truth over service charges then we have to do the same for waiters. If it is true he only gets 3-4% then I apologise but that's hardly likely is it?

Smyth HarperMay 28th 2010.

To pour oil on troubled water between Sleuth and Simone's heated debate, is it perhaps the case that the money goes back in the pot and then gets distributed to all staff, not just front of house? Hence, the waiter gets some tips, as does the pot washer out the back? In total, (s)he therefore gets a smaller percentage of the overall tip pot than 10%?

Did Sleuth clarify that or was he too p****d. I jest of course.

Now this will raise the question as to whether only waiting staff should get the tip. As a champagne communist, I believe in redistributing the wealth of all (and shooting those who disagree), and is a well-washed carrot not as much a part of good service as a smiling (and hopefully handsome) waiter?

I'm not really a communist. The uniforms aren't well enough tailored.

NortherngeezerMay 28th 2010.

Sleuth - The question of tipping with cash or cards has been done to death in the food & drink rants. The ONLY way forward is as you so rightly commented........card for the restaurant cash for the waiter.
Regarding your piece on the flashed at jogger, apparantley 'Penny Flash' is a well known dogging haunt...........not that i frequent this place myself you understand, well not 'after hours' anyway, hehehe.

Andrew RevansMay 28th 2010.

If a restaurant is going to formalise tipping to the extent of putting it onto a credit card payment, it seems logical that it should publish a formal gratuities policy setting out where the money goes. Cash, on the other hand, has an "ask no questions" informality.

I would be happy to give in the knowledge that my waiting staff were getting it, but (like Smitty) even happier if it was shared with the backroom staff. What I don't want is for it to disappear in "administration charges" or into some faceless manager's pocket.

I'm puzzled by the notion that large parties are frequently penalised by high levels of service charge. In any other line of business you get discounts for large quantities.

Finally, if I'm ever in court on a totally unfounded charge, I hope Simone won't be the judge!

ADMay 28th 2010.

Its also distributed through payroll so the tax man probably gets his share.

Simone13024May 28th 2010.

Perhaps I went over the top with slamming the waiter, I'm just sick to death of restaurants being slammed for this and then when the truth emerges it being a side issue. If it's wrong for the restaurant to mislead over service charges then surely it's wrong for the waiter to do likewise. Revaulx, Strada do display their policy on their website, which sounds exactly like what they told Sleuth http://www.strada.co.uk/servicecharge .

Christopher BryanMay 28th 2010.

I expect it sounds exactly like what they told Sleuth because if you read the piece, it says that they read it straight off the website over the phone.

I agree Smitty. If you give the money straight to the waiter then bar staff, pot washers and kitchen porters get no cut. They are all part of the service.

AnonymousMay 28th 2010.

Sometimes with tips, wauters can get paid more than the chef in a place like this, when you take into account they don't pay tax on a big chunk of their income. They should pay tax if you go by the rule of law, but how many do we think declare all their tips as income? So it's fair for the tips to be shared about in my opinion.

Rob.May 28th 2010.

What bugs me, is when a service charge is added, and the credit card machine (or paper copy) leaves a space for you to add a tip on top of that. Yes, Room, I do mean you.

Stephen RyanMay 28th 2010.

Chefs work hard, as do waiting staff but the hard work of a chef is often rewarded with a higher salary proportionate to the amount of skill he needed to get the job in the first place. I don't ever tip just for a tasty meal, nor do I go out of my way to with hold cash for a bad one.
The two should be treated as different as waiting on staff - in my experience having done a little waiting on and knowing some chefs - tend to get minimum wage whereas chefs (esp. full timers) will usually be salaried.
To muddy the waters further what would people suggest for an amazing waiter who served you a terribly cooked meal or a rude waiter who serves you 3 star food? Apart from the obvious "I wouldn't eat there again..."

OOfgMay 30th 2010.

Oh Loyd, why for Gawd's sake? You're too old. Grow old with grace.

AnonymousJune 4th 2010.

I go often in strada for the pizza there is a very nice italian waiter there he's great very good all the time.I dont think the management is very good there .

user56283June 4th 2010.

we belive the bill should be without the add 10% like many others restaurant strada should do the same,like bella italia,

AnonymousJune 7th 2010.

yes is true,live cash and ask to remove the service,

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