The problems you can face at a restaurant can range from:

  • a special occasion being ruined by poor quality food or service (where you may want a refund). To
  • food poisoning causing serious illness (where you will also want to claim for pain, suffering and extra expenses)

Our small claims service can help you with both.

 

Summary of the law

Your rights

 

You are entitled to food to be provided with reasonable care and skill.

What is reasonable will depend on the type of food outlet and price – but is usually a matter of common sense.

You should complain at the time – otherwise it might be difficult to prove that you were unhappy with the food you received. Also this gives the restaurant a chance to put matters right or offer you a discount on your bill.

Refusing to pay: You can refuse to pay because you believe the food was not of satisfactory quality. Whether it is reasonable to refuse to pay for all your food or just some will depend on what is fair and reasonable in the circumstances.

If you refuse to pay you should explain the reasons to the restaurant and leave your name and address. If the restaurant puts pressure on you to pay you should write on the back of the bill that you are "paid under protest".

Claiming a refund: If you were not able to deal with not paying at the time, then  you can still send a written complaint afterwards asking for a refund of all or part of the cost.

Law: You have a contract with the hotel or restaurant. They provide the food. In exchange you pay the agreed price.

Consumer Rights Act 2015 says that it is part of that contract that the food served would be provided with reasonable care and skill. If they do not carry out their part of the deal you’re entitled to receive compensation or money off for their failure.

Food poisoning or poor food standards: You can also report the establishment and incident to your local environmental health service, as this may pose a health risk and be a criminal offence under the Food Safety Act if the food is unfit for human consumption.

If you suffered from food poisoning after the meal you are entitled to claim that the food was negligently prepared resulting in your illness. As a result you can claim for your pain and suffering and extra expenses and losses that leave you out of pocket.

Did you pay by Credit Card?

 

What do you have to prove to bring a claim?

 

Unsatisfactory meal: You need to show that the food was not provided with reasonable care and skill – spoiling your enjoyment. Thi sis usually possible with one or more of the following:: 

  • It may be relevant to take photos of the food but this is not always necessary.
  • It is best if you complain at the time – explaining your concerns. However with food poisoning you may not be aware that the food was contaminated at the time.
  • With an unsatisfactory meal, unless you were eating alone, you will be able to rely on the memories of those you were eating with – who if it proves necessary can provide a letter confirming what went wrong.
  • In extreme cases you might also take the names and addresses of other people at the restaurant – to contact them later.
  • You should keep your bill and also any receipt as proof of how much you were charged and then paid.

Food poisoning: Here you have 3 things to prove:

1:  You will need to prove that you became ill  - usually by seeing your GP and giving a sample –this can later be compared to samples taken at the restaurant. It also helps if you keep a diary of your pain and suffering. A report is usually needed to make sure you receive full compensation that includes any long term consequences of your illness.


2: that the illness was directly caused by the meal: This is easier if several people eating at the restaurant all suffered the same type of illness.  You should make a note of all the places you have eaten and what you ate for 72 hours before your illness started.


3: Proof of your losses and expenses : Keep a list (and receipts) of all the extra expenses you have to pay for as a result of the problem or injury (such as taxi fares and medication). Keep a record of other issues such as time off work.

 

What can you claim?

 

1: A refund (or money off) of all or part of the cost of the food.

2:  If the meal was part of a bigger event, such as a family celebration, then it may also be reasonable to claim compensation for spoiling that memorable event.

3: If you had to pay for additional expenses as a direct result, then you are entitled to get your money back (you will need to show your expenses are reasonable and you’ll usually need to provide receipts to prove the cost to you).

4: With food poisoning you can also claim compensation for your pain and suffering as well as your additional expense such as medicine and time of work. We can give you guidance on valuing this when you get in touch.

 

What is the deadline for starting a restaurant claim at court?

 

 

This is a complicated area of law where you will need specific advice. But very generally you have 6 years to start a claim for breach of contract in the courts of England and Wales.
However to stand a chance of proving your claim you will need to make your complaint as soon as possible.

With food poisoning cases they count an injury claim and the general rule is 3 years (but it does vary in some circumstances).

 

 

Disclaimer reminder

 

Please note: To give you general information about your dispute, the information given here is a simplification of a complex area of law and cannot be relied upon. Before taking action please use our Small Claims service to get specialist legal advice on your specific circumstances. See the full terms and conditions of this website

 

Format - complaint letter (unsatisfactory meal)

 

 

Information to include

Sample letter – unsatisfactory meal

1

Start of official letter to the restaurant or hotel..

[If you know the person’s name]: Dear Mr Smith, 

[If you do not know their name]: Dear Sirs,

2

Background

Any relevant background information:

What was agreed between you?

What happened (in date order)? 

Be specific and refer to any written or verbal agreements.  

 

Background

Back in June 2013 I booked a meal at your restaurant for a group of 4. 

The reason for our visit was to celebrate my 50th birthday. 

Therefore on 8 July the 4 of us ate in your restaurant.

3

Payments

Details of any payments requested and any payments made.

Payments

I paid for the meal for all 4 of us at the end of the meal on 8 July by debit card at a total cost of £175.

4

Complaint

Identify clearly why you are unhappy.

Give any relevant dates

Be clear about why you think the other person is responsible. ​

Complaint

The meal we received in your restaurant was not of satisfactory quality. 

The food was delayed and the first course took over an hour to arrive and was poorly prepared and presented.

3 out of the 4 main courses were not cooked properly and had to be sent back.  After a further 30 minutes they were returned but whilst the meat was then cooked the accompanying vegetables were cold.

Again there was then a further delay (of almost an hour) before our puddings arrived. 

At the time of the meal we complained about the undercooked main course and the delays. We raised this with our waiter. He was very apologetic and did explain you were having problems in the kitchen. 

We did not bother to say anything about the cold vegetables. Nor did we complain about the puddings as we did not want the atmosphere to be ruined further. 

The bill then arrived for £175. Despite making our unhappiness clear, there was no discount offered on the bill.

At the end of the meal I was embarrassed and simply paid the bill.

5

Problems caused

Give details of any problems you have suffered as a result.

If relevant refer to photos.

Problems caused

The food and speed of service were of an unsatisfactory quality.

Most of the food was not enjoyable. As a result what should have been a memorable family celebration was completely spoilt.

6

Remedy

Be as clear as possible about the remedy you would like.

  • Say what action you would like them to take (or stop).

  • Where you are asking for a payment - put a price on the remedy you seek.

Remedy

With the meal ruined I would like a full refund of the bill of £175.

Optional – extreme cases: I would also like compensation for the inconvenience, embarrassment and loss of enjoyment of what should have been a special occasion. I value this at a further half of the cost of our meal being an additional £88.

 

7

Reply

Give your opponent 14 days to reply to the letter – to either:

  • agree with your complaint and give you the remedy that you seek

OR

  • arrange to inspect the problem

OR

  • set out their detailed response.

Reply

Please do not ignore this letter. I would like us to try to resolve our dispute without court proceedings and legal costs.

Please reply in the next 14 days, so that this dispute can be resolved as set out in this letter. 

If you do not agree that you are liable and/or do not agree with the remedy sought, then please reply within 14 days with a detailed explanation of why not.

8

Consequences

Point out that ignoring your letter will mean you may start legal proceedings for the court to deal with the dispute and that you may refer the judge to your letter.

 

Consequences

I am sure it will not prove necessary but if I do not hear from you within 14 days then I reserve the right to start court proceedings without further reference to you. I will ask the court for an order that you pay me £263. 


If I do have to issue court proceedings, I will refer the court to this letter and I will also ask the court to order you to pay me interest, court fees and legal costs.

I look forward to hearing from you within the next 14 days

9

Ending

[If you started with their name]:
Yours sincerely, 

Ian Rate

[If you started using Dear Sirs]:
Yours faithfully, 

Ian Rate

 

Format - complaint letter (food poisoning)

 

 

Information to include

Sample letter – food poisoning

1

Start of official letter to the restaurant or hotel.

 

[If you know the person’s name]: Dear Mr Smith, 

[If you do not know their name]: Dear Sirs,

2

Background

Any relevant background information:

What was agreed between you?

What happened (in date order)? 

Be specific and refer to any written or verbal agreements.  

 

Background

Back in June 2013 I booked a meal at your restaurant for a group of 4. 

The reason for our visit was to celebrate my 50th birthday. 

Therefore on 8 July the 4 of us ate in your restaurant. The meal we received in your restaurant seemed fine at the time. 

3

Payments

Details of any payments requested and any payments made.

Payments

I paid for the meal for all 4 of us at the end of the meal on 8 July by debit card at a total cost of £175.

4

Complaint

Identify clearly why you are unhappy.

Give any relevant dates

Be clear about why you think the other person is responsible. ​

Complaint

3 out of the 4 of us all became ill the following day.

The 3 or us that became ill had all eaten the cold chicken mayonnaise starter. 

My wife says she remembers seeing them on a trolley in direct sunlight.

5

Problems caused

Give details of any problems you have suffered as a result.

If relevant refer to photos.

Problems caused

The three of us have each suffered differing levels of food poisoning.

I understand that my wife and one of our guests (Joan Rogers) still have on-going problems – and they will be in touch separately.

I attended my GP on 11 July and he took samples and gave me medication. He confirmed the symptoms of food poisoning.

I saw him twice more and so a report or medical records can be obtained if needed to confirm the problems I suffered.
The details are….

After 14 days Dr Peters confirmed I had made a full recoverey and should not expect and further problems. Therefore I am ready to finalise my claim with you.

6

Remedy

Be as clear as possible about the remedy you would like.

  • Say what action you would like them to take (or stop).

  • Where you are asking for a payment - put a price on the remedy you seek.

Remedy

1: In the circumstances I would like a refund of the bill I paid for the 3 of us who have suffered ¾ of the bill of £175 = £131.

2:  I would also like compensation for the inconvenience, embarrassment and loss of enjoyment of what should have been a memorable occasion leaving us with fond memories. I value this at the full cost of the meal being an additional £175.

3: For 2 of my trips to the GP I was not well enough to drive (nor was my wife) so I claim the return taxi fares (see attached receipts): £20

4: Medication – see chemist receipt - £14

5: 10 days off work. I wasted 10 days of my annual holiday allowance and so I claim the value to me of my net pay for 2 weeks. See letter from my employer confirming the value at £845

6: My pain and suffering (and inability to get on with normal activities) for 14 days. The details of my suffering 9including the embarrassment of having to be near a toilet) are set out above. Having taken legal advice I understand that for the particular impact on me, the value is £750.

Total claimed: £1,935

7

Reply

Give your opponent 14 days to reply to the letter – to either:

  • agree with your complaint and give you the remedy that you seek

OR

  • arrange to inspect the problem

OR

  • set out their detailed response.

Reply

Please do not ignore this letter. I would like us to try to resolve our dispute without court proceedings and legal costs.

Please reply in the next 14 days, so that this dispute can be resolved as set out in this letter. 

If you do not agree that you are liable and/or do not agree with the remedy sought, then please reply within 14 days with a detailed explanation of why not.

8

Consequences

Point out that ignoring your letter will mean you may start legal proceedings for the court to deal with the dispute and that you may refer the judge to your letter.

 

Consequences

I am sure it will not prove necessary but if I do not hear from you within 14 days then I reserve the right to start court proceedings without further reference to you. I will ask the court for an order that you pay me £1,935. 


If I do have to issue court proceedings, I will refer the court to this letter and I will also ask the court to order you to pay me interest, court fees and legal costs.

I look forward to hearing from you within the next 14 days.

9

Ending

[If you started with their name]:
Yours sincerely, 

Ian Rate

[If you started using Dear Sirs]:
Yours faithfully, 

Ian Rate