Money Moral Dilemma: Should we have paid for restaurant owner's birthday meal?

Former_MSE_Darryl Former MSE Posts: 210 Forumite
Here's this week's hypothetical situation for you to cogitate on:
Should we have paid for restaurant owner's birthday meal?

An old schoolfriend of my wife has opened a restaurant. We went a couple of times, and then she invited us to her birthday do there. We bought a £35 bottle of champagne as a thank-you for the meal, but were taken aback to be handed a £150 bill for all our food and drink, plus a full 15% service charge. We both thought the food and a little bit of wine would be included. We paid, but had we known, we wouldn't have gone – it seems she used her birthday to fill her restaurant. Should we say something?
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  • [Deleted User]
    [Deleted User] Forumite Posts: 2,175
    Part of the Furniture 1,000 Posts Combo Breaker Name Dropper
    I'd leave saying anything until the next time she invites you to anything, then respond - no matter what the invite - with "sorry, can't afford to"... even if it's somewhere that doesn't cost anything (a walk in the park, etc)
  • iclayt
    iclayt Forumite Posts: 451
    Part of the Furniture 100 Posts Combo Breaker
    Bit late to say something after you've paid and left. It's a new business, why would she treat a room full of guests to their dinner and drinks if she could have a room full of paying customers instead? It's crossed wires - if you want to make a point, politely decline any future invitations and don't go back for a while.
  • gloriouslyhappy
    gloriouslyhappy Forumite Posts: 579
    Part of the Furniture 500 Posts Name Dropper
    edited 21 May 2014 at 12:19AM
    Seems like the invitation to have dinner on the birthday night wasn't clear that it was on a paying basis, I would have established the situation before accepting the invitation, eg: What should I bring, what's included, what do I need to know about the event' as my finances are tight and I could not cope with an unexpected bill, least of all for £150!!

    To answer your question: 'should we say something', my answer is no, it's too late now. The right time would have been on that evening, to ask discreetly when the bill was presented, if a mistake had been made as you'd been invited to a party, and weren't expecting to get a bill.

    It sounds an awkward situation all round, if your wife is close to her old schoolfriend, perhaps she can bring it up at an appropriate moment, not asking for money but just clarifying the situation in case of future invitations. If they're not close, I'd chalk it up to experience and decide whether or not to accept future 'invites'. But I trust you enjoyed your £150 dinner, I do hope so as you said you'd been a couple of times before the fateful evening!
  • joannedavidson80
    joannedavidson80 Forumite Posts: 12
    Part of the Furniture Combo Breaker
    edited 21 May 2014 at 7:45AM
    I think it depends on your friendship circle, if one of my friends invited me for a birthday meal in a restaurant we'd pay our own way, usually splitting the birthday individuals meal between us and bringing a gift for them but we all know that's what we do.

    I think it depends on the circumstances but if the restaurant was open to other customers, you ordered from the menu and were served by staff you couldn't expect not to pay as your friend has a business to run, if it was closed and only invited guest were there then maybe I can understand your reluctance to pay.

    Either way as someone has already said its a misunderstanding and you know for future events what your "friend" means with an invite to her restaurant. Would like to add this says more about you than your "friend" as it's pretty poor show if you wouldn't have attended if you had known you'd have to pay, wondering if you would have run up such a hefty bill if you had known you'd have to pay too?
  • roses
    roses Forumite Posts: 2,330
    Part of the Furniture Combo Breaker
    Outrageous! If I'd been invited to a friends birthday at their own restaurant I think most people would assume they would not have to pay for the meal.

    Chalk it up to experience. Bring it up if the time ever becomes appropriate but it doesn't sound like she was a real friend to treat you in that manner.
  • RobotB
    RobotB Forumite Posts: 8
    Part of the Furniture Combo Breaker
    I think your friend has behaved badly as they were unclear any payment was required and unless it's a michelin starred restaurant you have been charged full price so they are even making a profit. I would have been too embarrassed and shocked to even say anything on the night. I suspect this restaurant will have lost a lot of potential regular loyal customers
  • tgroom57
    tgroom57 Forumite Posts: 1,430
    Part of the Furniture 1,000 Posts Name Dropper
    I wonder if you saw the original invite - with all relevant details - or if it came through to your wife. To answer your original question -too late to say anything now. The most I might hope for is a discount on future meals, but tbh I wouldn't go again.

    If it seems too good to be true - it probably is.
  • minislim
    minislim Forumite Posts: 357
    Part of the Furniture 100 Posts Combo Breaker
    its a funny situation. if you'd have been invited out for a meal at another restaurant you'd have known full well that you'd be paying.
    but with them inviting you to theirs its more like being invited to a friends house than business. i think its a tad cheeky to expect invited guests to pay without informing them before hand.

    i'd bite the bullet this time and wait and see what happens when its your birthday.

    maybe invite them to your birthday meal their restaurant. see if you get the meal "on the house".;)
  • lutzi1
    lutzi1 Forumite Posts: 2,703
    Part of the Furniture 1,000 Posts Combo Breaker
    To me she was cheeky and tacky in doing this and I'd steer a pretty wide berth in future. Ok, there may perhaps have been room for a misunderstanding, but to me, adding a 15% service charge just puts a tin hat on it. Not nice.
    Hope is not a strategy.
  • warehouse
    warehouse Forumite Posts: 3,362
    I've been Money Tipped!
    Easy, vote with your feet and don't go back. Take your money elsewhere.
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