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The Top 5 Worst Excuses For Not Paying a Restaurant Bill

2:53 pm


It's happened to pretty much every restaurant. The meal has gone down perfectly. Service was great. Desserts were fantastic. The wine was enjoyed by everyone. The only problem is... the customer won't pay. What's the worst excuse you've heard for non-payment?

There's actually two types of non-paying customer.

There's the one who has made a genuine mistake. You know the kind of thing - a missing wallet or purse. The declined card payment. Usually, it's all just a bit embarrassing for the customer and they quickly arrange an alternative payment method.

The other type of non-payer is the won't pay. Perhaps they are unhappy with some part of the service, even though there was no mention of their issue during the meal. The following are all genuine excuses used by customers to try and reduce the bill or get the meal comped.

Worst Excuses

1. "The restaurant is dirty"

A totally valid complaint if that was the case. A customer refused to pay anything as they were unhappy with the condition of the washrooms. They had been cleaned, although another customer hadn't left the facilities "as they'd expect to find them". Still, this customer went on to polish off a three course dinner and a whole bottle of red - whilst not expecting to pay a penny.

2. "I've lost my shoes"

Yes, a genuine excuse for not paying the bill. A customer said they kept their cash in their shoe for security, but they kick off their shoes whilst eating. Eww. Somehow, their cash-stuffed shoes had gone missing during service.

3. "The Wi-Fi is slow"

If the restaurant is packed full of customers, all tapping away on their phones or laptops, it's entirely possible that the internet could slow down a little. Is that a reason to not pay your bill?

4. "I didn't know what I was ordering"

Everyone has different tastes. Still, there's not a lot you can do if someone complains about the gazpacho soup being cold or the steak tartare being undercooked.

5."The plate is chipped"

Even the best plates can get chipped from time to time and it's a pretty legitimate concern for a customer to have clean, chip-free plates. Still, refusing to pay outright for a whole meal and drinks seems a mite stingey! Many plates at Nisbets have a lifetime Edge Chip Guarantee.

Can't Pay

In all of the above circumstances, there's a rather awkward conversation to have. A negotiation to ensure everyone leaves happy. Much like the Brexit negotiations, coming to a reasonable solution can seem a long way off and rather complicated.

In most cases, those who can't pay have simply made a genuine error and are quite apologetic about it. Regular customers can usually be given a temporary "tab", however if its new customers, it's important to get this right.

There are a few options available:

  • Ask the customer to leave some security, such as a mobile phone or car keys whilst they organise alternative payment.
  • If a customer has online banking, it may be possible to authorise a bank transfer using a phone or laptop.
  • If it's a group, perhaps one of them can leave to obtain cash - a good opportunity for another round of drinks whilst they wait!
  • Obtain identification and contact details, on the understanding that the customer will return to make payment as soon as they can.

Won't Pay

Most restaurants rely on a good reputation. Let's face it, that's why Michelin stars, TripAdvisor and AA Rosettes exist. If a customer refuses to pay, its usually because there's a part of the service which has disappointed them. Addressing concerns and resolving disputes is the key to making everyone happy.

A common piece of advice is to "put yourself in your customer's shoes". Of course, that might be the reason they weren't able to pay in the first place.

For more related reading check out the following articles within the Nisbets Cater Hub.

- Should You Provide Free WiFi? 
- How to Redesign a Restaurant
- How Clean are Your Washrooms?

By David Evans

“My passion is all things electrical and there’s nothing I like better than getting to grips with the latest industry innovations. When I'm not putting new products through their paces, I’m writing about them.”


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