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Dining issues
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Your rights when served poor-quality food

We’ve all been to a restaurant that’s failed to live up to expectations but what are your consumer rights if you’re served food that’s uncooked, inedible, or simply not what was on the menu?

Under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 or the Consumer Rights Act 2015, you have a right to expect restaurant food to be of satisfactory quality and ‘as described on the menu. If it’s not, the restaurant is in breach of contract.

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Practices Regulations 2008 prohibit traders from misleading consumers, for example, over ‘the main characteristics of the product’ or its price.

That means if you were tempted into the restaurant by the sound of ‘freshly caught mackerel’ or ‘homemade soup’ and then get served something frozen or out of a tin, you have a right to reject that item. You should also report the establishment to your local Trading Standards office.

Knowing your consumer rights when eating out can give you the confidence to complain about poor quality food or food that isn’t as described on the menu.

Dining at a restaurant should be relaxing and pleasurable, but if you face a dining disaster such as poor quality food or a lost booking, it's essential that you know your consumer rights.

Booking a table creates a contract between you and the restaurant. You have a right to expect restaurant food to be of satisfactory quality and ‘as described on the menu, and for the restaurant to provide an acceptable level of service.

But, what if things are less than perfect? For example, your fish pie is frozen in the middle, or the restaurant has double-booked your table.

Knowing your consumer rights when eating out can help you make a successful complaint about poor restaurant food and service, get your money back or even get compensation from the restaurant.

Which? Legal can help

Our specialist advisers can answer all your legal queries regarding paying for poor-quality food in restaurants. We’ll give you confidence with the knowledge that you can make a claim for compensation or achieve a reduction in your bill.

For example, you’re not entitled to get your whole meal for free if only one dish is below standard. You must still pay for any food you did eat and any drinks that were consumed. And, it’s important to act quickly and let the restaurant know straight away if there’s a problem rather than waiting until the end of the meal. The restaurant is less likely to entertain a claim where a complaint is only made when the bill is received.

At Which? Legal, we believe that legal advice isn’t reserved for problems with major purchases. To us, no issue or question is too small. You can get advice from our team of legal experts on disappointing meals and other everyday legal problems that end up losing you money. 

Sales of Goods Act 1979 - applies to contracts entered into prior to 1st October 2015

Consumer Rights Act - applies to contracts entered into on or after 1st October 2015 

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Meet your experts
James Attew Prior to joining Which? Legal in September 2018, James advised in relation to consumer, commercial, and property disputes at various firms in the South of England See profile
Peter Litchman Peter qualified as a solicitor in 2003 and joined Which? Legal as a legal adviser in January 2007. He advises on all aspects of consumer law, tenancy issues, and neighbour disputes. See profile
Adrian Schwab Adrian joined Which? Legal in June 2017 as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives. Adrian received his Bachelor in Law degree from the Holborn Law School in 2006. See profile