Sector legal framework
Food and Beverage

Sector legal framework

The foodservices sector like any other industry is subject to changing legal regulation therefore the following should be considered as overview.

A foodservices operation is under no statutory regulation to provide services unless the establishment is covered by Hotel Proprietors Act 1956. Customers seeking services must be travellers.

An establishment can refuse to serve a customer not meeting the establishments’ dress code or the individual is drunk or argumentative. The establishment is obliged to comply with the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, Race Relations Act 1976, Disabilities & Discriminations Act 1995. To summarise an establishment cannot refuse or provide inferior service because of disability, sex, race, creed or colour.


Describing your services.

Under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (amendment 1994) a customer can refuse to pay for a meal or demand a replacement meal if the meal doesn’t correspond to the given description or if a displayed item isn’t what it reports to be for example a salad states fresh tomatoes when they are tinned or the food is inedible or the beverage undrinkable. The Trade Description Acts 1968/1972 makes it a criminal offense to misrepresent (describe) goods and or services provided. The Food Safety Act 1990 covers preparation and service of food and beverage and is designed to ensure the product is safe to consume and is not misleadingly advertised or presented.

Customer unable to settle their bill.

If a customer mistakenly finds they are unable to pay, the establishment can seek proof of identity and their name and address however if fraud is suspected then the police may be called. The operation cannot ask for or retain personal items as security of pending payment unless the operation is a hotel and the customer is a resident.

Customer’s property

Hotel Proprietors Act 1956, makes the operation liable for the customers’ property while resident. Should customer’s property be damaged by a member of staff the customer does not have an automatically right to compensation, the case has to be proven. Under Health and Safety Act 1974 and other, the establishment is duty bound to ensure all lawful visitors are cared for; it’s a criminal negligence offence to not do so.

Price lists, service and minimum charges

Price Marketing Order 1979 requires food and drink prices to be displayed before entering the premises or in the case of large multiple unit complex before entering the dining area. If service charges are stated then a customer is required to pay unless they feel service was unsatisfactory. Consumer Protection Act 1987 Part III requires information and prices to clear and not misleading. If you have additional charges that are not optional the charge should be incorporated into the total charge or not charged at all. Cover charges or minimum charges must be predominately displayed however compliance is not obligatory but this could be considered evidence by the Office of Fair trading that an offence has been committed.

Health and Safety

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and subsequent legislation is designed to ensure all employees and lawful visitors are safe and not at risk of injury. Operations should seek advice from local environmental health officers.

Christopher Bird Author

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