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It is a typical facet of the British psyche that we do not like to complain, least of all about a restaurant.

Eating out is not just about the food. If the service is horribly slow or rude, or if you have been forced to sit under an air conditioning unit, these are issues every bit as irritating as cold carrots or burnt beef.  

By law, the meal (including the service, the ambience and everything else) should be of “satisfactory quality”. So, what should you do if your candle-lit romantic meal for two is ruined in some way?

It is always worth complaining on the spot but make sure you are an effective complainer – in other words, do not get abusive or lose your cool. 

If the meal is an absolute disaster, you could give your name and address and pay what you think the meal is worth. As long as you provide contact details after paying some amount (even a token sum), the dispute becomes civil, not criminal. I believe that the police cannot and will not intervene in such circumstances… However, this is obviously the most aggressive form of action.

Even though it may be best to pay, you can still refuse to leave a tip. It would absolutely be worth documenting your poor experience with photos so that you can report it to management and leave an honest review on their website or Google page. As well as letting others know about what they can expect from the establishment, you may be able to get a refund or partial refund later. 

If the restaurant is part of a big chain, I find that a complaint to the CEO at Head Office is the best form of attack. If the restaurant is an up market establishment under the banner of say a celebrity chef, then why not write to him or her? In my experience, Marco, Jamie and Gordon really do care.

Whichever options you choose, by all means, do not leave the restaurant without paying. It’s often very tempting to do so, especially after a very frustrating experience. However, you should know that this could amount to the criminal offence of “making off without payment” under Section 3 of the Theft Act 1978 and you could be the one punished for that.

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