these are your rights in bars and restaurants

BarcelonaSummer is the time of the year when the restaurant sector has more work, both because of the arrival of tourists and because of the holidays and the good weather, which favor consumption by families in leisure. The overcrowding in some areas of the country, however, may mean that some establishments do not meet some of the requirements required by law regarding the information and services they provide to customers, so it is necessary to be clear about what the rights of consumers are when they sit down to eat in a bar or restaurant.

In recent years, moreover, there has been some change in the legislation. The most recent example is that of water. Since last April, with the approval in Congress of a new law on waste, all bars and restaurants in Spain have the obligation to offer customers free tap water, a fully normalized practice in many European countries but which was not yet implemented in the State. So, if you don’t want to pay for a bottle of water, you can still ask the waiters for a glass or jug ​​at no cost.

What the establishments can charge is the ice in the drinks, for example, in soft drinks, which gives restaurateurs a breather in the face of the ice shortage in recent weeks. However, this additional cost will need to be clearly specified on the menu or on the price boards, in the case of premises that have it. The same goes for milk from lattes or cutlets. If they have different prices than a single coffee – as is usual in most establishments – the cost must also be identified on the menu.

In fact, this obligation applies to any surcharge, as recalled by the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) in a document on hidden or abusive costs in the restaurant. The prices of everything covered must therefore be clear and visible to the customer, and the price list must always be complete. In other words, some cannot be hidden.

This also includes off-menu dishes – usually seasonal –, which must have the prices specified somewhere or the waiter will have to explain them to the consumers. Likewise, prices that depend on the market – for example, seafood or fresh fish – must indicate the cost for a reference weight, such as 100 grams or one kilo.

Supplements well indicated

A common item that is often half-hiddenly charged is bread or nibbles that waiters bring without warning – peanuts or other snacks– and that some customers may think they are a courtesy of the establishment. In some cases they are not charged, but in others they are, depending on the business. However, if it is the second case, the price must be included in the menu. If you don’t want to pay for them, the OCU recommends asking and making sure they’re free before eating them, since once consumed, the regulations allow the restaurant to charge for them.

This clarity should also apply in case of price discrimination for sitting on an outdoor terrace. Charging more for the service on a terrace is perfectly legal, but it must also be clear on the price list. The same goes for bar supplements that charge more to customers who sit in instead of drinking at the bar.

Also, the price that appears must be the final price to be paid by the consumer, with all taxes included. This means that a restaurant that does not include VAT in the menu prices is in breach of the regulations.

No charging for a reservation

In general, fraudulent behavior is a small exception, but it can occur. During the months with more capacity restrictions in the premises due to the pandemic, there were occasional cases of restaurants charging customers extra to reserve a table, a practice that is not legal.

However, restaurateurs do have the right to charge an advance payment and signal to the customer to reserve a table, especially if it is a reservation for many people that requires the business to plan. The regulations, however, require businesses to deduct this money paid in advance from the bill, so that in the end customers only pay what is due for the food and service, with no additional cost for the reservation.

If the reservation is finally canceled at the last minute or the customers do not show up for the meal, they can only claim that the venue returns the payment and sign if they prove that they canceled due to force majeure, such as now an illness or an accident.


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