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Kensal Rise's Wahaca founder Thomasina Miers forced to defend chain after waiter is charged for customer who did a runner

PUBLISHED: 17:10 17 June 2019 | UPDATED: 17:11 17 June 2019

Thomasina Miers after being made an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) by the Duke of Cambridge at an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace in March. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA

Thomasina Miers after being made an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) by the Duke of Cambridge at an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace in March. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Kensal Rise restaurant founder Thomasina Miers was forced to defend her Wahaca chain after a waiter was blamed and charged for a customer who ran off without paying.

Sarah Hayward former Labour leader of Camden CouncilSarah Hayward former Labour leader of Camden Council

Sarah Hayward, a former Camden Council leader, tweeted Ms Miers and her Wahaca chain after witnessing a staff member being made to pay part of the customer's outstanding bill at the Kentish Town Road branch.

An outcry ensued with hundreds commenting, including accusations the company was "a disgrace" - forcing the chain to reimburse the waiter and "clarify" its policy.

Now there will be a full investigation into whether staff were "complicit in the walk out".

Tweeting on Saturday night, Ms Hayward wrote: "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."

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MasterChef winner, chef and writer Ms Miers responded to Ms Haywood and the restaurant's detractors 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."

People were quick to comment, with one asking: "What constitutes a 'case of total negligence' on the waiter's part?"

Ms Miers was made an OBE in January's New Year's Honours List for services to the food industry, and has organised three Fork to Fork Food Festivals in Ark Franklin Primary Academy in Kensal Rise with friend and Caravan co-founder Laura Harper-Hinton.

On Monday she thanked Ms Hayward for raising the issue: "Always good to stick up for people's rights...we like to champion our people, not diddle them. So thank you," she said.

Ms Hayward told this paper: "I'm delighted Wahaca seem to have acted to clear up and tighten their policy. But the reaction showed this practice is widespread in the restaurant sector - so employers need to treat their staff better and I think the practice of docking wages should be outlawed."

A spokesperson for Wahaca said: "In light of the recent incident where customers walked out of one of our restaurants without paying, we realise that our policy on how to deal with this has not been clear enough and we apologise to our teams for this.

Our clarified policy is below and we thank those that brought this to our attention.

"In situations of a walk out, whilst the waiter is responsible for the table they will not have to pay any element of the bill. However if the manager suspects that the waiter was complicit in the walk out then there should be a full investigation which will be taken to the operations manager to decide the appropriate action."

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