THE owner of a celebrity hotspot restaurant sent his staff an ominous voice message warning he would take them to the basement if they were caught taking tips.

Ali Melin who owns Melin in Chigwell, Essex, told workers "you take money from me, I’ll take something from you" in the menacing message that warns staff he has more than 50 CCTV cameras watching the restaurant. 

The restaurant – which employs 53 people after two were fired for stealing tips – is popular with local celebs including Lauren Goodger, TOWIE’s Ricky Rayment and Teddy Sheringham who attended its launch back in March.

But in a threat sent to staff, Mr Melin warns workers they should not take any tips for themselves.

Addressing his employees, he said: “I would just like to say and clarify with people that don’t know that any tips in the building belong to the restaurant.

“Any money that is given to you by a customer belongs to the restaurant.


“You are not paid any tips whatsoever. Nobody has the right to put tips in their pocket whatsoever. I have over 50 CCTV cameras in the building that are visual and voice activated.

“I can hear everything and I can see everything. If I see again, yes again, that someone has put money in their pocket from a customer I will either 1.) report it to the police or 2.) take them into the basement.

“Simple as that. You take money from me, I’ll take something from you.”

Since the recording was shared online, the restaurant has been flooded with negative reviews by shocked customers. 

A local solicitor said: “A lot of my clients eat there because it’s the newest place to be.

“People were a bit concerned about this basement at the bottom of the property and are scared about who is operating the restaurant.

“Everyone’s too frightened to say anything.”

The recording has been shared hundreds of times online, with one diner commenting: “This is mad I went there and had a lovely waitress. I gave her a good tip I’m mad to think the management got it after she did all that hard work.”

Another restaurant owner added: “That’s horrible to say the least. I have a restaurant and every tip goes to the team. This owner clearly is sitting on his brains.”


Mr Melin told The Sun Online he had sent the voice message after two of his workers were caught stealing around £20 each in tips from his restaurant.

He declined to apologise for what he said in the memo, adding that over £400 worth of tips had been wrongly pocketed in the last two and a half weeks.

He said: "They were stealing their colleague's tips – not my money. That’s why I got irate. It’s really unfair, it’s not right.

"They were putting them straight in their pocket which is not how they are meant to do it. It's meant to go into a tips box that is locked.

"The general manger and the deputy manager opens the tips box monthly, divvies it all up and gives it out to the staff as a form of wage."

When asked what he meant by "the basement," Mr Melin explained: "We at Melin refer to the basement as the office area -the manager has an office down there.

"I’ve not told anybody I’m going to chop their fingers off or anything like that! You can go to the police or you can go down for a disciplinary – maybe I should have called it a disciplinary."

Mr Melin said the restaurant's tips policy is explained to all employees in their contract.

Addressing the concerns on their Instagram page, Melin Chigwell said they divide tips equally among employees and were “disappointed to learn staff were stealing tips” from the team.

They wrote: “We take pride in Melin’s wage structure, which sees each individual incentivised weekly* via tips collected that are then split among staff, so to learn staff were stealing tips from the entire team was extremely disappointing.

“Even as a new business in a testing industry, we are committed as a group to keeping our staff in employment as well as incentivised.

“Just like any other restaurant, we continue to do all we can despite the hospitality trade taking a massive hit with the COVID-19.”

*Mr Melin confirmed to The Sun Online that tips are divvied up monthly not weekly.

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