Poor service? Cold food? Food poisoning? My recent rodent experience forced me to take action and call Environmental Health, but maybe I should have just checked the restaurant’s hygiene rating beforehand?
Last week my lovely colleagues took me out to a fancy restaurant to celebrate my birthday. The place looked fabulous – it was well decorated, the waiters were smart and attentive and the menu looked delicious.
As the starter arrived my mouth was watering. But as I took my first bite, my friend Hollie shrieked. She’d spotted a rodent running across the floor and my other friend had felt it run over her foot.
Not only were we all pretty disgusted, but Hollie suffers from a phobia of rodents. We left swiftly and thankfully didn’t have to pay the bill for our uneaten food.
Complaining can cause change
Before we left I had a word with the manager. She offered to show us their pest control records – unnecessary seeing as whatever action they were taking clearly wasn’t working. She also took my contact details so I expected to hear from them shortly to apologise about the situation.
Sadly, I haven’t heard anything. However, I did email Environmental Health and was impressed that they responded quickly, sending an inspector to the restaurant the very next day.
They found ‘low levels of mouse droppings’. As a result of the visit various actions are being taken to stop the rodent problem, although the restaurant didn’t get shut down. The officer has also assured me that he will carry out a surprise inspection on the restaurant to monitor its progress.
I was pleased to learn that complaining can change things for the better. Hopefully the restaurant will sort out its problem, ensuring that it’s safe and hygienic in the future.
What are your rights?
Was it just down to the restaurant’s good will that we didn’t have to pay? I thought so, but our senior solicitor Joanne Lezemore had this to say:
‘When you go into a restaurant you enter into a contract – it is implied that all aspects of the service will be carried out with reasonable care and skill. Part of this would be the implied term that the restaurant would be fit for its purpose – to eat in – and for these reasons it could be argued they were in breach of contract. So you should not have had to pay, even if you were asked to do so.’
If something equally disgusting happens to you check out our guide to your restaurant rights so that you know who to complain to.
Would you research a restaurant before booking?
Of course it’s also possible to do your research and try to avoid a situation like that in the first place. Which? has long campaigned for restaurant hygiene scores to be public – and it’s finally happening. With hindsight, we should have looked at the score for this restaurant before we chose it, because it was only given two out of five. As a bench mark, three stars means that a restaurant is broadly compliant with hygiene standards.
The Food Standards Agency has now launched a national hygiene ratings scheme to ensure a common approach. We want all local authorities to use the same scheme and restaurants to display their ‘scores on the doors’ too.
So what would it take for you to complain? Have you experienced a similar situation – and will it encourage you to check a restaurant’s hygiene rating before you book a table?