Restaurant dining - Your consumer rights
The average cost of a meal at an inexpensive local restaurant is about R100, with the cost going up to roughly R2650 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?
With most South African’s almost permanently in a state of tightening their belts, consumers are not compromising on getting value for their money, and they are well within their rights to do so! The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) was enacted to ensure that your rights are promoted and protected.
You are entitled to quality service and food regardless of your choice of restaurant or meal, and in the event that you are dissatisfied you can demand a refund or replacement meal. Whether it results from rude waiters, food that has gone bad or poor service overall, you have a right to complain about it and have it dealt with to your satisfaction.
According to the CPA, the restaurant is obliged to compensate you or your dependants for any death, injury and illness caused by the food served to you. If you are faced with the unfortunate experience of food poisoning after eating out, you can lodge a complaint with the restaurant’s management along with proof of your illness and medical bills. In addition to claiming reimbursement for these medical costs, you can submit a claim for any loss of income resulting from your being ill. You have to be reasonable with your claim though, that way you are more likely to receive full compensation.
You also have a right to demand nothing but top quality food and service. If your waitron gets your order wrong, is rude to you, or if your food takes too long to arrive, you should complain to the manager and demand a discount based on how bad you felt the service was.
If you are served food that is bland or does not taste as you had expected, you should raise the issue with your waitron there and then and ask them to replace the meal. If you do not want the food anymore, you are entitled to a full refund. Similarly, if your food is not quite like it was described or shown on the menu or if the meal portion is unusually small, you should complain to your waitron too. You can ask for a discount or have the meal replaced at no additional cost to you. If you are still unhappy about the outcome, you should complain to the restaurant’s manager. But if you eat a large portion of a meal you know you didn’t order or that tastes bad, you may not get very far with your complaint.
Quality service includes a hygienic restaurant and proper facilities. If the restaurant is dirty or too hot and noisy, or if the facilities are not available or broken, 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 means they need to maintain certain standards of cleanliness and in some cases, have a certain number of toilets available on the premises for both their staff and customers.
Unfortunately, sometimes management may not deal with your complaint in a satisfactory manner. If that is the case, you can escalate your issue to the restaurant’s customer service department or the head office if the restaurant is a franchise - you can do this using Resolver for free.
If you are eating out and have a bad experience - always take pictures (of the food of course) and keep any receipts, take note of the date and time, and make sure you speak up as soon as you feel the quality of your experience is compromised so to speak, it can only help your case. It would also save you some trouble to look out for the fine print in the menu to take note of any additional charges or ingredients you may need to be aware of.