Dining - Extra charges
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Certain restaurants will add extra charges or a compulsory service charge to your bill, while others will leave it to your discretion.
You only have to pay the service charge if it is made clear, verbally or by written notice, before the meal. If the restaurant does not make this clear or if the service is poor, you do not have to pay this charge.
Under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 the restaurant is legally required to use reasonable care and skill when providing its service. If the restaurant fails to do so, you can argue that the compulsory charge does not form part of your contract.
- Always try to resolve your issue while you're still at the restaurant
- Notices limiting the restaurant's liability must be prominently displayed
- The food should be of a ‘satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, and as described’
- Service must be carried out with ‘reasonable care and skill’ and ‘within a reasonable time’
- Restaurants are only responsible for damage to personal items if it is due to negligence on the part of the restaurant
The food was bad, do I still have to pay for it?
When eating at a restaurant, you are entitled to the same rights as with any other goods and services, including the requirement that the food should be ‘fit for purpose’ (i.e safe to eat), “as described” (no hidden or missing ingredients) and “of reasonable quality”. Once you’ve realised that there is something wrong with your food you should stop eating it and complain to a member of staff. How your complaint is handled is at the discretion of the restaurant. They may choose to offer you a replacement, free drinks, a refund etc.
The service was terrible, do I still have to pay service charge?
The restaurant must carry out the service ‘with reasonable care and skill’ and ‘within a reasonable time’. This covers problems such as being treated poorly by staff or long waits for your food. If you feel you have received poor service you should complain directly to a member of staff. If they don’t offer any solutions you could refuse to pay service charge; you must still pay for the remainder of the bill though. If a discretionary service charge is applied to your bill, it is not required that you pay it. However, if a restaurant charges a compulsory service charge then it must have been obviously displayed in the menu or communicated to you. If you’ve received poor service then you can refuse to pay a compulsory service charge.
I had a reservation, but the restaurant had given my table to someone else!
If you’ve booked a table at a restaurant you have created a contract. So if the restaurant fails to honour that booking you are entitled to claim compensation for your travel costs and other expenses incurred. However, in theory, if you fail to turn up for a reservation the restaurant could also make a claim for compensation against you, but this is very unlikely to happen.
Do restaurants have to have toilets available for customers?
If a restaurant serves alcohol they are required to have toilets available to customers. Any restaurant that is open past 11pm must also have toilets. Other restaurants are not required by law to have toilets available for customers, although some local authorities do require toilets to be available in any restaurant.
Do restaurants have to provide free tap water?
Not all restaurants have to provide water free of charge. However, if a restaurant serves alcohol then they must provide tap water for free.
Issue not addressed
If the restaurant does not respond to your issue, then you should raise your case to the next level. The resolver system knows the next steps to take to escalate your issue and will remind you what to do and when, so that your voice is heard and hopefully your issue is addressed.
Certified third-party mediators, called Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) providers, are available to all businesses to help when a dispute cannot be settled directly with the consumer. The system offers a quicker and cheaper way of resolving disputes than going via the courts. Once the internal complaint process is exhausted, businesses must give the consumer details of a certified ADR provider and tell the consumer if it is willing to use them. However, businesses do not have to use ADR unless they operate in a sector where existing legislation makes it mandatory, such as in financial services.
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