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Know your rights when eating out

know your rights when eating out

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Know Your Rights When eating Out


As the public we all have consumer rights here in Britain, we are known for our stiff upper lip and rarely ever complain, but every now and again we will have a dreadful meal or experience terrible service that we can’t just let slip. Make sure you know your  rights when eating out and have the knowledge to make a complaint in the appropriate manner next time you have a meal from hell!

Know when you are being treated unresonably

It doesn’t matter whether it’s the Ritz or MacDonald’s, all service based establishments have to adhere to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, which sets the standards for levels of service you should receive. They must provide ‘reasonable care and skill, within a reasonable time and at a reasonable cost’ Even though the key word here is ‘reasonable’, there are circumstances which can dictate what is or isn’t reasonable. Take for instance you book a table in a restaurant yet when you arrive, the table is double booked. When you have pre-booked a meal, you have in effect made a contract with the establishment, so you should reasonably expect to be reimbursed for the inconvenience, travel cost and disappointment (if the meal was for a special occasion). They won’t just put their hands in the till and cough up the cash though, you have to write to the restaurant explaining the situation and asking for compensation.

Supposing you have your table and enjoyed a delicious meal, yet the service was atrocious. To add insult to injury, the restaurant has even added a 10% service charge to your bill; can you refuse to pay it? Certainly! The service charge is purely voluntary so if you aren’t happy to pay, tell them to remove the charge and explain, politely, why. You can also ask for a percentage of the bill to be deducted (around 10%) if they have included service into the food cost. If the restaurant refuses to deduct any amount and you feel forced into paying, then ‘pay under protest’ by writing that on the back of the bill, and dispute the cost later.

know your rights when eating out

Be polite but assertive

Alternatively, if you receive great service but the food left little to be desired, then firstly, tell your waiting staff what the issue is and they should offer to amend your dish or bring out a new meal for you. Most of us will just politely nod with our mouths full, when we hear ‘is everything alright with your meals’? – But if its not, speak up! Its better to explain why you are unhappy and the restaurant rectify, than sit through an inedible meal and feel thoroughly disappointed afterwards. If you still believe the food wasn’t up to scratch, then it is perfectly legal to refuse to pay on the grounds the food was not of satisfactory quality. Like with poor service, the restaurant may pressure you into pay and if so, again, ‘pay under protest’ and put your complaint in writing.

Duty of care

Restaurants also have a duty of care to ensure that food is cooked thoroughly and hygienically. It is one thing being served cold food, another when it is under cooked. So if you begin to tuck into your Sunday roast and your chicken is raw, then send it back immediately and you should be given a new, thoroughly cooked dish. If you have eaten food and have since been struck down with food poisoning or a stomach bug, then if you can prove it was caused by the restaurant, you can ask for compensation for the food, suffering or other expenses incurred. You can even file a personal injury claim up to £1000. However proving the restaurant is at fault can be quite tricky. If you still believe the restaurant poses a health risk, you are entitled to report the incident to the local Environmental Health Agency who can investigate whether its food is fit for human consumption.

Lastly, you might not know, but restaurants aren’t under obligation to provide free tap water. They are entitled to only provide bottled water or can charge for tap water. It is slightly different for pubs, clubs or bars which are covered under different licensing laws and usually restaurants are happy to give free tap water, so shouldn’t be an issue, but do bear it in mind!

Hopefully, it should be rare you ever have to complain about food or service, so let’s hope our dining out experiences will be fabulous, with great food, great service and great company!



About Rebecca Robinson

About Rebecca Robinson

After spending the last 8 years juggling life as a mum of two, wife and working full time as a Project Manager for a global telecommunications company, Rebecca Robinson made the decision to follow her love of writing and took the plunge; turning her passion into a full time career. Since becoming a full time writer, Rebecca has worked with various media and copy-writing companies and with the ability to make any topic relevant and interesting to the reader, now contributes to The Working Parent on articles ranging from credit cards to teenage relationships. Ever the optimist, Rebecca's dreams for the future include a house in the country filled with children, dogs and horses in the field!

Website: Rebecca Robinson

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