1. ITV Report

Waitress at Wahaca forced to foot the bill for customers who left without paying

Sophia was asked to cover the £40 bill herself Credit: ITV Wales

A woman from Cardiff, who worked for the restaurant chain Wahaca, has said she was left in tears after being asked to cover the bill for customers who had left without paying.

Sophia was newly employed at the Cardiff branch Credit: ITV News

Sophia Homnayoonfar was newly employed at the Cardiff restaurant and working alone for the first time when two customers left without paying. A manager then told Sophia she would have to cover the £40 bill herself.

''I was told sternly I had to pay the bill and I had to pay it that night.'' Sophia said.

''I didn't have the cash so I was told that I had to go to the cash point and withdraw the money.''

Wahaca's policy of charging staff when customers ''eat and run'' came to light when a similar incident occurred in London. A post on Twitter shedding light on the practice attracted thousands of comments.

The policy came to light in a viral tweet Credit: ITV Wales

Sophia said she asked to have the bill discounted but her request was refused, and she was left struggling financially.

''I was extremely upset considering I hadn't had any pay in two months.'' she said.

''I had debts building up. The manager was made aware of this but it didn't seem like it was very important to her.''

It is thought that the practice is commonplace in the restaurant industry and according to an employment lawyer, is perfectly legal.

The law says that an employer can deduct from salary as long as they have got a contractual right to do so. Ordinarily, you would have a clause in a contract entitling them to deduct money lawfully from the individual's salary.

– Owen John, Employment Lawyer at Darwin Gray

Wahaca has since changed their policy, apologising that the policy ''has not been clear enough'' for staff.

The chain's co-founder Mark Selby said he was ''horrified to hear what had happened'' to Sophia, and promised to repay the money.

I have looked into the situation that occurred with Sophia in Cardiff in 2017. I was not aware of this situation and horrified to hear what happened, and acted quickly to resolve it. This behaviour is not common practice in Wahaca and having spoken to the Cardiff team I am certain that they are happy and feel well supported.

To our knowledge, there have been two walk-outs in Cardiff in the past year, and on both occasions the waiters were not charged or held responsible. However, we acknowledge that in some rare occasions in the past this has happened and that is why we have quickly put in place a clearly defined policy to ensure this does not happen again.

As a company we will of course do whatever we can to rectify a situation where an employee was unfairly treated. I have spoken personally to Sophia and she is happy with our response.

– Mark Selby, Wahaca co-founder