Turning the Tables on Table Turning
I've noticed a growing trend recently in the number of restaurants limiting how long you can have the table for. 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 the food. 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 although I'd argue that they'd still have to show that they needed the table back. On the other hand, I would argue 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 run late.
Although you may not realise it, by booking a table and turning up at a restaurant and ordering food, you've entered in to a contract. In fact, you enter into contracts all day every day, probably without being aware. You agree to buy goods and pay for them and the seller agrees to provide the goods at the right quality and at that price every time you walk in to a cafe, or a supermarket or the garage or indeed almost anywhere where money is going to change hands. So what happens if the terms of the contract are not clear. That's when you need to try and work out what the "implied" terms of the contract are. If the restaurant wants their table back in two hours, then there is an implied term that they will serve you promptly and if they don't, they probably cannot enforce their two hour limit.
I often talk about the importance of a written contract or written ts and cs but sometimes, such as in the examples above, it's just not practical. If you've entered in to a contract with someone where some or all of the terms are unclear, and you need help working out what the implied terms are likely to be, then drop me a line at email@example.com. We'll set up a meeting and make sure the time limits are agreed in advance.
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