If you go out for a meal and the service is poor, you might be left wondering do you have to pay service charge? In the UK, you are not obliged to pay a service charge unless you were made aware of a compulsory service charge before committing to the purchase. Even if you were made aware of this charge, you can refuse to pay some or all of the charge if the service you received did not meet the expected standards.
In this article, we’ll explain when you have to pay a service charge and when it can be contested. We’ll also explain how you can complain to a restaurant if the service isn’t up to your standards.
What Is A Service Charge?
A service charge is a payment that you make in exchange for a service. This type of charge is most commonly used in restaurants, where the charge goes directly to the waiting staff and kitchen staff.
Whilst a service charge is usually discretionary (meaning that you choose what to pay as a tip), some restaurants add a compulsory service charge onto the bill. You might also find that some restaurants add on a service charge when you dine as part of a larger group, for example if there are eight or more people on your table.
Do I Have To Pay The Service Charge?
You are not obliged to pay a service charge unless it was included in the menu or you were told about the charge before committing to purchase. It should also be made clear if the service charge cannot be removed from your bill.
Some restaurants add a compulsory service charge onto the bill, so you can’t refuse to pay it and still leave the restaurant. However, even if the service charge appears on your bill, you can ask for some or all of this money to be taken off your bill if the service you received was not up to your expectations.
Service Charge Added To Bill Automatically – What To Do
If the service charge is automatically added onto your bill by the restaurant, you should ask whether or not it’s compulsory before committing to purchase. If you’re told that this charge can’t be removed from your bill, you have no choice but to pay for it.
However, even if this charge was compulsory and has already been included, you can ask for some or all of this money to be taken off your bill if the service you received was not up to your expectations.
How To Challenge Service Charge
To challenge the service charge, you’ll need to speak to the waiting staff or ask to speak directly to a manager. You should not be aggressive or rude to the staff member – calmly explain the issues that you’ve had with the service and ask for the charge to be removed from your bill.
For example, you might explain that you felt the waiting staff were rude, or they were slow to take your order.
If the restaurant refuses to remove the service charge (or some of it) from your bill, ask them for their manager’s contact details so that you can make a formal complaint. If the staff don’t provide you with this information, you can take your complaint to the restaurant chain’s head office or customer services department.
If You Don’t Pay Your Service Charge
If you don’t pay the service charge, the restaurant should not refuse to serve you. However, if you continue to cause trouble and disrupt other diners, they can ask you to leave. If it’s necessary to call the police or security staff in this situation, then they will ask that you leave the restaurant until things have calmed down.
Can You Refuse To Pay Service Charge?
The answer isn’t clear when it comes to whether you are legally obliged to pay a service charge in the UK.
If you weren’t made aware that there was a compulsory service charge before placing your order, you are not legally obliged to pay the charge. On the other hand, if you were made aware of the charge prior to ordering, you have entered into a legally binding contract and are obliged to pay the charge.
However, even if you placed the order after becoming aware of the compulsory service charge, you can still challenge this charge if the service was not up to your expectations. To do this, you will need to speak to the waiting staff or ask to speak to a manager to raise your concerns.
Are Service Charges Legal UK?
Service charges are legal in the UK, but the restaurant must make you aware of this charge before you place an order. The most common way for a restaurant to do this is by including the information on the menu.
If the restaurant adds a compulsory service charge to your bill without your prior knowledge, you are not legally obliged to pay the charge.
Does Everyone Pay Service Charge?
In many cases, yes.
Many restaurants charge a compulsory service charge for large groups of diners – usually if there are six or more people dining together. This charge is usually added to the bill automatically.
If this does happen, you are only legally obliged to pay the service charge if you were made aware of it prior to placing your order. This is because the service charge is considered a contract between you as the diner and the restaurant, and by placing your order you willingly entered into the contract.
No one wants to be hit with an unexpected service charge when it comes to paying the bill at a restaurant. That’s why it’s so important that you know your rights when it comes to service charges in the UK.
In this article, we’ve answered the question ‘do you have to pay service charge UK’, as well as exploring some of the most commonly asked questions regarding service charges in restaurants.