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  • Matt Sanderson

The Top Five Consumer Myths About Restaurant Law

One of the more entertaining aspects of restaurant law is dealing with consumer myths. We are consistently challenged by consumers over seemingly insignificant issues. However, for these restaurant customers, these issues are indeed significant, so we thought we would share their concerns. Whether you have dealt with these issues or not, this post should let you know more about your customer and it should make you feel more comfortable in your own restaurant policies.

With that in mind, please note the following Top Five Consumer Myths About Restaurant Law and our analysis of each:

Restaurants are NOT required to serve water – We originally wrote about this back in 2010 at this link. While we had fun writing this post, it continues to be well read. Just because most restaurants serve free water, that does not mean the law requires it.Restaurants are NOT  required to provide high-chairs – Restaurants have a duty to provide a safe environment for patrons. Restaurants are also required to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (the “ADA”). However, neither requirement affects high chairs.

Restaurants are NOT required to serve meals to employees (free or at a discount) – This is my personal favorite. There is no law that requires restaurants to offer meals to employees. That said, it is important to treat all employees equally. Thus, you should not offer free or discounted meals to some employees and not to others. That may give rise to many different types of claims.

Restaurants CAN discriminate against children (or any other non-protected class) – I first discussed this topic for the State Bar of Texas in their Party Talk Section for the Texas Bar Journal. Here’s the link. The main point here is that you can discriminate against children. You can also discriminate against just about anyone. The only categories of people that you cannot discriminate against are protected classes, including race, religion, and national origin. It is probably not the best idea to discriminate against whole groups of people, like kids, but the law does not prohibit it

.Restaurants CAN prohibit smoking, even in areas that don’t require such prohibition – Similar to Myth 4 above, restaurants can discriminate against smokers because they are not a protected class. Further, like Myth 2, restaurants have a duty to provide a safe environment. Given public opinion and the wealth of information on the dangers of smoking, restaurants are well within their rights to prohibit smoking.

Hopefully, these myths are no surprise, but if they are, even better. Keep these in mind as you operate your restaurant.

Have you dealt with any of these myths? Have you had patrons or employees insist on something that was unreasonable? Please let us hear your stories!

About the author: Matthew Sanderson is a restaurant lawyer in Texas. “Good service with a smile” is his motto.

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