Today more Americans than ever are eating out. There are simple guidelines and general service requirements enacted by local, state and federal authorities that define how restaurateurs and their staff should act and behave, so going to restaurants and pubs should never be a hassle. There are also easy steps an individual can take to make sure her night out is the most pleasant experience possible.

Can I be refused service at a restaurant?

The laws regarding management's right to refuse service are governed by federal state and local mandate.

  • Federal law-Under federal law (Human Rights Act), no restaurant may refuse a customer service on the basis of race, creed, color or national origin.
  • State and local law-These prohibitions on restriction are not universal but usually cover sex, sexual preference and age. Some private clubs are still allowed to discriminate on the basis of sex, as in all male clubs and all female clubs. These clubs normally require membership and are rarely open to the public. The prohibition on refusing the aged does not necessarily protect those under the age of consent.

Other reasons for refusal of service might be:

  • Clothing and presentation-Restaurants have the right to refuse service to those who may be dressed inappropriately or to those whose lack of hygiene might offend other customers. If you feel that your dress is appropriate but are still refused service, ask to speak to a manager. A restaurant should have a well-defined (sometimes posted) dress code. Almost no eating establishment will allow you entrance without a shirt and proper footwear.
  • Pets-No eatery will allow pets (there is a Federal Food and Drug Administration ban on animals in restaurants). The exceptions to this rule are service dogs (e.g., guide dogs), law enforcement animals, and decorative or edible fish in a container.
  • Children-If you are less than 16 years old you may be refused service, but the Human Rights Act does ban discrimination against families. In other words, an adult with a child may not be refused service; but if your child acts up or disturbs other patrons, you can be asked to leave.

Is a restaurant liable for items lost on its premises?

The proprietor of a restaurant is not liable for the loss of a coat or hat, unless it is checked with the restaurant or a restaurant employee who acknowledges that he will take care of the item. The proprietor may also be liable if his employees are negligent in caring for the property of patrons that is under their watch.

If I request a special preparation of my meal, must the restaurant honor my request?

Restaurants will do their best to honor special requests, and your server knows that accommodating a special recipe should translate into a generous tip. One the other hand, restaurants are concerned about jeopardizing their patrons' health. Accordingly, they may go out of their way to accommodate your concerns over food allergies, but may not honor your request for a rare steak because of potential health risks.

Our use of cookies

We use necessary cookies to make our site work. We would also like to set some optional cookies. We won't set these optional cookies unless you enable them. Please choose whether this site may use optional cookies by selecting 'On' or 'Off' for each category below. Using this tool will set a cookie on your device to remember your preferences.

For more detailed information about the cookies we use, see our Cookie notice.

Necessary cookies

Necessary cookies enable core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility. You may disable these by changing your browser settings, but this may affect how the website functions.

Functionality cookies

We'd like to set cookies to provide you with a better customer experience. For more information on these cookies, please see our cookie notice.