Should kitchen staff get tips? Plating up what’s right

We explore the arguments for and against kitchen staff receiving tips and cover how tips are usually allocated, plus the impact the Tipping Act will have on these decisions.

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The debate in the hospitality sector over whether kitchen staff should share in the allocation of tips received from customers is long running, but could be affected by the introduction of the Employment (Allocation of Tips) Act in October.

The Act states that hospitality businesses must allocate all tips to staff “fairly and transparently”. This may mean that some businesses review and amend their tip allocation policies to include kitchen staff as well as front of house staff.

The Act does not explicitly say kitchen staff should receive tips, so the decision is down to the individual business, but there are various points to consider:

  • How much do kitchen staff contribute to overall customer satisfaction?
  • What impact will allocating tips to kitchen staff have on other customer service staff?
  • Does your business pay kitchen staff a wage at or above the industry standard?

Below, we will consider whether kitchen staff should get tips, outline the background of how tips are normally allocated, examine the arguments for and against, and look at a case study of a business that does allocate tips to kitchen staff.

Are kitchen staff normally included in hospitality tip allocations?

Often, kitchen staff are not included in tip allocations because tipping usually rewards direct service to customers. Kitchen staff provide an indirect service, where customers do not see or interact with them directly.

It is even less likely that kitchen staff will receive tips from takeaway orders, partly because tips are less likely to be given because personal service levels are lower, and partly because when tips are given, they are usually given to drivers when they deliver the order.

That said, some hospitality businesses have a tip pool that is shared amongst both kitchen and front of house staff, and, in theory, this method could be applied to takeaway or food delivery businesses too.

Should I include kitchen staff in tip allocation?

When deciding whether or not to tip kitchen staff, there are a few factors to consider:

Kitchen staff salaries

One of the biggest factors affecting whether kitchen staff should receive tips or not is whether you pay them more than front of house waiting staff when conducting pay reviews.

Of course, there are differences in average pay for the different roles working in the kitchen and front of house, but the important factor is whether you provide kitchen staff with an additional salary weighting to reflect that they are not included in tip allocations.

If kitchen staff are included in tip allocations, there does not need to be an additional weighting. If they are not, there is an argument for providing kitchen staff with an additional salary weighting because they are excluded from tip allocations.

Remember, no staff member should have to rely on tips to meet their financial needs. Ensure the wages you pay are fair and liveable without tips.

Contribution to the service experience

Another factor is the degree to which kitchen staff contribute to customer satisfaction. If food is prepared externally and mostly reheated once an order is taken, it could be argued that this work does not contribute uniquely to customer experience.

On the other hand, if food is individually prepared using fresh ingredients and cooked to order, the kitchen staff are clearly contributing more to a customer’s desire to tip.

Potential controversy

The other vital consideration for employers when deciding whether to allocate tips to kitchen staff is the impact it may have on the earnings and morale of other customer service staff.

Reallocating tips that were once the sole preserve of front of house staff to kitchen staff could demotivate your front of house team from providing excellent customer service (which encourages customer retention and is a major asset for any hospitality business) and lead them to raise pay disputes.

Back in 2018, TGI Fridays’ front of house staff staged a strike as a result of this exact issue. Their complaint was against the introduction of a new policy that gave 40% of service charge payments paid on credit and debit cards to back-of-house employees, including kitchen staff. Front of house staff claimed this would cost them up to £250 a month in lost earnings.

The pros and cons of tipping kitchen staff

  • Promotes to all staff that the business is united as one team
  • Motivates kitchen staff to provide a better service and higher quality food
  • Helps financially support kitchen staff, who are often paid a low salary
  • Encourages all hospitality staff to treat customers well, which benefits the overall business
  • Can demotivate front of house staff if a policy is amended to exclude them from some of the tip income they used to receive
  • Can create jealousy and division within a hospitality business when rules are changed
  • Tipping all staff can provide some employers with an excuse to lower or avoid raising salaries
Case study of a restaurant that does allocate tips to kitchen staff

Andrea Broadhurst is a co-owner of Coldharbour Field Kitchen, in Ottery St Mary, East Devon. She explains the tip allocation policy the restaurant uses, and why they opt to share tips between kitchen and front of house staff.

“Most of the tips are taken on the card machine. We write on the till roll who worked that shift and the bookkeeper allocates the tips accordingly. The staff receive their tips when they get paid at the end of each month.

“We divide the tips equally between kitchen and front of house staff at the end of each shift. It doesn’t impact on anyone’s salary or hourly rate. We pay above minimum wage for all our experienced and long-standing staff.

“I think in a setting like ours where the food is cooked from scratch and not bought in and deep fried or microwaved, kitchen staff have to show care and creativity in the food they prepare.

“Even the pot washer gets an equal share, they are all part of the team and play an important part. The only people that don’t get tips are Beth (the other co-owner) and I!”

Does the Employment (Allocation of Tips) Act affect kitchen staff?

We spoke to Chris Demetriou, co-founder of Nottingham-based Archimedia Accounts, who said: “The new Employment Act explains changes to tipping.

“The Act also says employers can’t use tips to meet minimum wage requirements. All tips must go to staff, except taxes.”

As well as considering the provisions of the new Act, which is being introduced to ensure all tips received are paid to staff, hospitality businesses still have discretion over whether or not to include kitchen staff in the tip allocation. They need to decide whether kitchen staff should receive tips or not using the context of what they pay their kitchen staff.

“The Act wants fair tip splitting for all staff, including kitchen workers,” Demetriou advises. “In the past, front of house staff like servers got more than kitchen staff, who have less customer contact.

“Some places share all tips equally. Others use performance or customers to decide. Now, the Act says tips should be distributed fairly to all. So kitchen staff may get a more equal portion.”

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Average salaries in the hospitality sector

Average kitchen staff salaries vary depending on the role, age, and experience of workers. Kitchen staff roles include cooks, sous chefs, dishwashers and bakers. According to jobs website Jooble, based on their data, the average kitchen worker in June 2024 earns £23,332 annually.

The UK’s largest survey of hospitality salaries, produced by Kam Insight, does not include all kitchen roles, but it does state that the average salary for a chef in 2024 is £34,800, whereas for front of house hospitality staff, it is £24,300. According to the data, most kitchen staff are young, early in their career, and earning a relatively low salary – usually close to the minimum wage for full-time equivalent roles.

The survey also tells us that the proportion of hospitality workers with an annual salary of £30,000 or less actually increased from 30% in 2023 to 37% in 2024, despite this being a period of high wage growth for the wider UK economy. The proportion earning £60,000 or more also increased, from 13% to 16%.

The importance of tips in the hospitality sector

Kam Insight’s report also analyses hospitality workers’ expectations and views on the importance of tips and bonuses. It found that over two thirds (68%) of staff said tips were either important or very important “in providing a satisfactory salary for the work they do.”

In 2024, the percentage of workers earning no tips or bonuses increased from 35% to 41%. This means the new Tipping Act is likely to have a significant impact on hospitality staff, though the impact on kitchen workers depends on whether individual employers choose to apply the Act to them or not.

Just under half (47%) of surveyed hospitality workers said they would be likely or very likely to still be working in hospitality if they received no tips.


There are strong arguments for and against including kitchen staff in tip allocations. Some employers do this because they want all of their staff to feel part of a unified team, while other employers may be happy to just allow front of house staff who deal directly with customers to receive the tips.

The new Employment (Allocation of Tips) Act, which applies from October 2024, instructs hospitality employers to fully allocate all tips to staff, but employers can still decide whether this includes kitchen staff or not.

Hospitality businesses need to carefully consider the overall pay and conditions they offer both kitchen and front of house staff, and ensure that they are a fair reflection of the contribution each employee makes to the business, as well as reflecting industry averages for each role.

Go to GOV.UK to get more guidance on allocating and managing tips and service charges.

Benjamin Salisbury - business journalist

Benjamin Salisbury is an experienced writer, editor and journalist who has worked for national newspapers, leading consumer websites like This Is Money and, business analysts including Environment Analyst, AIM Group and written articles for professional bodies and financial companies. He covers news, personal finance, business, startups and property.

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