Sit down - Charged for a rejected meal

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If you are served food that isn’t of a satisfactory quality, is unsafe or doesn’t match its description, firstly you should complain to the waiter or waitress. You can either ask for a replacement or order something else. You should not be charged for a meal you reject. If the waiter or waitress fails to rectify the situation, ask to speak to the manager. If the manager fails to assist you, you should make a formal written complaint.

You should know
  • You are entitled to good customer service and quality food, if you feel you are not receiving the best service or quality of food, you should complain to the restaurant’s management
  • Always try to resolve your issue while you're still at the restaurant, you stand a better chance of coming to a resolution. If your complaint is not appropriately dealt with by the restaurant manager, you can lodge a formal complaint using Resolver and escalate your issue to the Consumer good and Services Ombudsman if you’re still unhappy.
  • If you are eating out/getting takeouts and have a bad experience- take pictures (of the food of course) where possible, keep any receipts, take note of the date and time and details about the delivery guy where applicable
  • Whatever you do, make sure you speak up as soon as you feel the quality of your experience is compromised, so to speak, in any way, it will help your case
  • Look out for the fine print in the menu and the meal pictures next time you eat out or order food from a restaurant so that you are aware of what a meal includes, the ingredients in your food and the differences in portions or meal sizes.

The average cost of a meal at an inexpensive local restaurant is about R100, with the cost going up to roughly R2 650 at the country’s top restaurants. Now imagine spending a penny that pretty for bad service and a meal that leaves you with increased visits to the little room and maybe even a hospital. Not quite the generally expected definition of good dining is it? As a consumer, you are entitled to certain protections that will ensure you have a desirable experience and enjoy your food.

Customer service

Regardless of your choice of a restaurant or meal, you are entitled to quality service, and a right to complain about it in the event that you are left unsatisfied.

The service I received from the restaurant was really bad, what should I do?

If your waiter gets your order wrong, or your food takes too long to arrive or doesn’t arrive at all, you can communicate this to management and demand a discount based on how bad you felt the service was. Many restaurants that care about the quality of their food and service will apologise for the poor service and make some effort to show you that they value their customers (for example by giving you a free cup of coffee, a dessert, a voucher or reduce the amount of your bill).

The staff at the restaurant were rude to me

If you have been treated badly by a staff member of a restaurant you should ask to speak to the manager of the restaurant and report the behaviour of the staff member. If you aren’t happy with how the manager addressed your complaint, you can lodge a complaint about the matter using Resolver. In this way the owners of the restaurant will become aware of the poor behaviour of their staff and do something about it.

Problems with the food

The food served was of poor quality, should I pay for it?

If you are served food that is below par, cold, not cooked properly or as per your instructions or tasted bland, you should immediately call your waiter, waitress or the manager of the restaurant and ask them to take the meal back. The restaurant should prepare another meal for you that is of good quality and in some instances may not charge you for the meal at all. Alternatively, you are entitled to receive a refund. You cannot eat the entire meal or a large portion of the meal and then complain that the food was of poor quality, in this instance you will be obliged to pay. Upon tasting the food, if you are dissatisfied with its quality, stop eating the meal and ask that it be taken back.

I think the food made me sick!

If you are faced with the unfortunate experience of food poisoning/allergic reaction after eating out, you can lodge a complaint with the restaurant’s management along with proof of your illness and with documented costs of treatment. In addition to claiming reimbursement for medical costs, you can submit a claim for any loss of income resulting from your being ill. You have to be realistic with your claim though, we would all love to say we could have bet and won the lottery and thus demand a heap of cash as loss of profit.

The restaurant must ensure all ingredients are listed to avoid you not being aware that a food has a specific ingredient and as a result you having an allergic reaction. You can’t complain about an allergic reaction if it results from you simply neglecting to read the menu or to inform your waiter or waitress to exclude the food items you are allergic to.

Issues with the restaurant’s facilities

Are restaurants obliged to provide toilet facilities for customers?

Restaurants are obliged to provide toilet facilities for customers and their staff and depending upon the restaurant's Certificate of Acceptability for Food Premises, a certain number of toilets need to be available for both staff and customers. Most restaurants do provide these facilities for both men and women but if you come across one that doesn’t you can take this up with the restaurant using Resolver.

The facilities at the restaurant were not clean

As a customer you are entitled to proper service and this includes a hygienic restaurant and any facilities it offers. If the restaurant is dirty, you should bring this to the attention of the manager or lodge a complaint using Resolver. You can also report the restaurant to the local authorities as they are required to have a Certificate of Acceptability for Food Premises, which requires that the restaurant maintain certain levels of cleanliness.

What can I do if my rights as a consumer has been infringed?

If your rights as a consumer have been infringed, impaired or threatened you can lodge a complaint against the restaurant by using Resolver. You are also entitled to take legal advice on the matter and approach a court.

Remember, you first need to raise your complaint with the restaurant and give them an opportunity to sort out your issue, Resolver makes this easy and simple for you to do- we’ll keep all your documents together so that you can easily escalate the matter should you need to. Plus, it is completely free!

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