- Lost job of 12 years after admitting to taking home pudding that cost £3.99
By Jamie Mcginnes
PUBLISHED: 04:59 EST, 20 June 2012 | UPDATED: 07:32 EST, 20 June 2012
A waitress says she is 'devastated' after she lost her job at a Little Chef because she took home half a slice of apple pie.
Lynn Smith, 52, said she took the dessert because she had been too busy to finish her lunch allowance during her shift at the roadside diner in Talke, Staffordshire.
But bosses at the chain have banned employees from eating company food at home - and sacked Mrs Smith after watching CCTV footage of her leaving with the pie, which normally costs £3.99.
'Devastated': Lynn Smith says she took half a slice of pie home in a box because she had been too busy to eat it at work
Mrs Smith, from Stoke-on-Trent, lost a compensation claim for unfair dismissal at a Birmingham employment tribunal.
Speaking after the hearing, she said: 'I just can't believe that a few mouthfuls of apple pie has cost me my job. I'm devastated.
'I was given permission to have the pie for my lunch, but we were short-staffed and I ended up cutting my lunch break short.
'I didn't have time to finish the pie, so I just put the piece in a box and took it home.'
A few days later Mrs Smith said she was called in by bosses and asked what was in the box she had taken home.
She said: 'I told them straight away - I didn’t think I had anything to hide, but they told me I was being suspended.'
Diner: Lynn Smith took the apple pie from this Little Chef in Talke, Staffordshire
Last week’s tribunal heard that Little Chef managers had given permission for Mrs Smith to eat the food at the restaurant.
But they said she knew she was breaking company rules by taking the pie home.
Tribunal judge Maureen Connelly said: 'Mrs Smith knew it was against the company's rules about misappropriating food.
'She admitted taking the pie and should not have taken the pie away.'
The tribunal heard that Mrs Smith had also been involved in a dispute about a burger, despite a previous 12-year unblemished record.
The company claimed she had given a burger to a customer without taking payment, because she had been too busy cashing up at the time.
She made two appeals against the dismissal decision, but was finally told she had lost her job in November.
Ruling that Mrs Smith was not entitled to compensation for unfair dismissal, Miss Connelly said: 'The respondents acted within the bounds of reasonable responses in dismissing the claimant.'
Turnaround specialist RCapital, which rescued the chain from collapse five years ago, was forced into a pre-pack administration after talks with its landlords stalled.
It announced in February that it had secured a deal to save the chain – but with the closure of more than a third of its restaurants.
RCapital said the deal would see 67 of 161 Little Chefs close, with the loss of up to 600 jobs.
Graham Sims, chairman of Little Chef, said the pre-pack was the ‘final hurdle’ in the company's rebuilding process which has included bringing in Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal as an adviser.
A spokeswoman for Little Chef said: 'The majority of national catering businesses in the UK have specific rules surrounding the unauthorised removal of food from premises and Little Chef is no different.
'The tribunal judge accepted that we acted within the bounds of reasonable behaviour and we now consider the issue to be closed.'
Sacked: Waitress Lynn Smith was fired from Little Chef for taking home half a slice of apple pie
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