I’ve noticed a growing trend recently in the number of restaurants limiting how long you can have the table for, particularly post lockdown when they’re desperate to turn tables as much as possible.  In fact, it seems that the more expensive and exclusive the restaurant, the more adamant they are about how soon you have to be out.  After all, when was the last time you heard of McDonalds giving you a time limit.  For all that they are a fast food joint, realistically you could sit there all day, although I doubt you’d want to.

So what happens if you reach the end of your allotted time, and you haven’t finished your meal.  Could they make you leave and if so, would you have to pay the whole bill, even if you’d only eaten half of it.  Well it might depend on whose fault it was that you weren’t done in time.  If it was because you had delayed and stalled, and you had been clearly warned about the time limit, then possibly yes.  On the other hand, I would argue that there is an implied term that the restaurant must take all reasonable steps to serve you promptly, so if the food is late turning up, and the staff are slow, they can’t then blame you if you are not done in time.  Often the contractual relationship between two parties can be very vague, with few terms actually expressly set out.  If that happens, it’s necessary to try and decide on what terms the parties are likely to have agreed on if they had anticipated what had happened.  It’s reasonable to assume that the contract would include an implied term that they serve you promptly and you eat promptly.

So whilst you wouldn’t normally be taking notes during your meal, if you do notice that you’re getting close to the deadline and the staff are being slow, you might want to start jotting down a few facts such as number of times you asked for the salt or number of times you saw staff standing around chatting when there were tables waiting.  Alternatively (or possibly in conjunction with this) I’d be calling the manager over before the deadline expires, pointing out the problems and explaining as politely as possible that you won’t be vacating the table on time due to their failure to keep up their end of the bargain and ask him to agree to an extension because you should be able to enjoy the rest of your meal in a relaxed atmosphere without looking at your watch and getting indigestion!

If they really want you to leave, they can call the police, but if the police are satisfied that it is a genuine civil dispute, they can remove you from the premises but they can’t arrest you for non-payment.  If it’s become a civil matter, the most the police can do is make sure the restaurant have your name and contact details and then it’s up to the venue if they want to pursue a claim against you and I doubt they will.

If all else fails, I post a firm (but genuine) report on tripadvisor and an email to the venue’s head office can work wonders!

Kleyman & Co Solicitors.  The full service law firm.  Always on time.