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Restaurant service is poor

When you eat out you have the right to expect a decent standard of service. If you have to wait a long time to be served, or the waiter is rude, you can complain.

This page contains information on what to do if you have a problem with the service in a restaurant or other eating establishment.

Complaining about a service

The law says a service must be carried out with reasonable care and skill and in a reasonable time. If the service is poor, you have a right to complain. For example, if the waiter is rude or you have to wait a long time for your food.

Complain on the spot to the waiter or waitress. If they don't sort it out, ask to speak to the manager and tell them why you are unhappy. The restaurant may offer to reduce the bill or give you a complimentary drink but you can’t refuse to pay the bill because the service was poor.

If the service was poor you do not have to pay a service charge, even if the restaurant says it is compulsory.

If you do not think your complaint was dealt with properly in the restaurant, you could write a letter afterwards to the manager.


You only have to pay the price listed in a menu and any extra charges listed such as cover charges. If you are charged more than the price displayed, you can complain and ask them to adjust the bill so you only pay the advertised price.

If the trader tries to charge you more than the advertised amount, they may have committed a criminal offence. You could consider referring the matter to your local trading standards department through Citizens Advice.

If there are no prices displayed:

  • you will only have to pay a 'reasonable amount' for the meal ordered
  • a criminal offence may have been committed, and you should consult your local trading standards department.

Service charges

Compulsory service charges must be displayed. You only have to pay a service charge if the trader makes this clear before the meal in a notice or verbally. This is because the service charge is then part of the agreement. If the restaurant does not make the service charge part of the contract in this way, you can decide whether to pay a tip or service charge, and how much this should be.

Lost or damaged personal items in restaurant

If you leave your coat or bag in a cloakroom or on a coat hook in eating premises, the trader must take reasonable care of your belongings. Notices limiting their responsibility for possessions lost, stolen or damaged while in the trader's care must be prominently displayed and will only have effect if they are reasonable.

If your belongings are lost, stolen or damaged while in the trader’s care, you should complain. You may be entitled to compensation. Get advice from Citizens Advice if you think this is the case.

Restaurant is unclean or unhygienic

If you have concerns about the cleanliness of the restaurant, you should report them to your local food standards department.

Next steps

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