Hotel Professionals

Restaurant patrons’ bill of rights


Today, we not only expect restaurant managers to serve us palatable food, but we want them to meet the expectations of our social conscience – impeccably ethical, environmentally responsible, and concerned about our health.

Restaurant must provide food, beverages, service and an adequate environment commensurate to prices charged.

Menus must spell out sufficient detail about ingredients, portion sizes, taxes (if and when applicable), and applicable service charges. (In Europe all restaurant prices are al inclusive).

Guests are annoyed at poor, slow, or intolerably rude service, low quality of food, inadequate portions, limited beverage offerings, distracting designs, uncomfortable chairs, wobbly tables and deceiving advertising. They expect to dine in adequate comfort.

While there is no law to specify quality and adequacy of both food and service, the minimum is wholesome food, and friendly but not familiar service, even if slow and unprofessional.

Here are some commonalities of meeting, and hopefully exceeding guest expectations:

Food safety: food must be wholesome. However, a guest claiming to have contracted food poisoning in your restaurant must be able to prove it.

A restaurateur is liable for foreign objects in the food, but not for contaminated water consumed outside of your establishment.

A medical emergency is always a dreaded event and servers must be able to help a choking guest.

Physical hazards such as frayed or loose carpeting, wobbly stairways, uncomfortable chairs, wet slippery floors, changes in floor level that are not clearly marked, cracked or icy sidewalks.

Skilled servers must perform hazardous tableside flambéing only and in safe distance from guests.

Personal safety: Restaurant must be safe from violence and robbers both inside the premises and on the parking lot.

Internal policies regarding dress codes must be enforced with utmost tact and discretion.

Although in most North American restaurants dogs are not welcome, seeing-eye dogs represent an exception and by law must be allowed into the eating area.

Alcohol service must be carefully monitored to ensure that ever patron leaves the premise not inebriated (in some countries the law states no tolerance, in others it may allow 0.05 to 0.08 per mille).

Reservations, at least in theory, are binding agreements, but many people provide wrong names and telephone numbers. For these reasons restaurateurs secure the credit card number and state that failing to honour the reservation will incur a stated amount per guest (Generally $ 25.00 or more per guest). Some restaurants simply do not take reservations altogether.

Reserved tables are kept for 15 minutes and may be “given away”.

Menus must be truthful and state the provenance of ingredient when applicable. A guest has the right to demand proof of claimed provenance i.e Dover sole must originate from the English channel, tomatoes from San Marzano, asparagus from Peru or California, or France or Germany, Oka cheese from Quebec, etc.

Guests must never be rushed to eat quickly or move to the lounge, even if the restaurant is very busy, except if a time limit is imposed while taking the reservation.

Service must be properly timed allowing guests adequate time to finish eating the food.

Time and leisurely service requests and needs must be unfailingly fulfilled. If guests ask for quick service appropriate dishes must be available and offered.

A well-managed restaurant must offer an appropriate choice of alcoholic beverages and all servers must be able to advise or guide patrons in selecting appropriate wines, beers and cocktails. If there is a sommelier, he/she must approach the table with appropriate suggestions, or after a short discussion, regarding guest’s wishes.

In an empty restaurant the guest has the right to choose a window table or any “free” table. In some restaurants maitre d’hotels “literally sell” preferred tables, and which management should never allow.

A patron must be treated as a paying guest, unless s/her asks for something illegal.

The bill must be clearly itemized showing all charges including cover charges, taxes and tips if and when applicable; the bill should be presented without delay.

Service staff must ask whether everything was satisfactory, thank patrons for their visit, and express their desire to see them again soon.

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