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Restaurant's Reservation Policy Allows It to Sue Yelpers, Online Critics

The restaurant also charges a $50 per person cancellation fee.

Grill 225/Facebook

Want to gripe about a restaurant's reservation policy online? You could get sued for that. According to the Post and Courier, a restaurant in Charleston, S.C. has a clause in its "dining contract" sent to diners who make reservations for five or more that if they generate "any potential negative, verbal, or written defamation" against the restaurant, Grill 225, they can be held "legally liable." Basically, if a customer posts something negative to social media about the high-end steakhouse after making a large reservation, they could be slapped with a lawsuit.

Grill 225 has a particularly strict reservation policy that could lead to upset customers needing to vent their frustration online. The "dining contract" says that Grill 225 will charge guests who cancel their entire reservation or even one of the requested seats "within 24 hours" of their reservation time $50 per person. No-shows will also be charged that fee.

Grill 225 director of operations Nick Palassis says that in the two years since the restaurant introduced the contract, the restaurant has never sued a customer, and that the contract is there to "flush out the guests who may not have wanted to dine with us in the first place." Plus winning a lawsuit for a negative tweet would be difficult: "Grill 225 would have to show the review in question included false statements that led directly to a loss of profit."

The fact that only those who dine in parties of less than five do not need to sign a contract means tables for two or solo diners can leave all the negative commentary they'd like. On July 14 of this year, Paul Q. slammed the restaurant on Yelp (3 out of 5 stars), noting the experience was, "Very mediocre and way over priced. It's a typical hotel restaurant that you'll find anywhere else in the country." Last August, Julie W. gave the restaurant just two stars, explaining, "I only gave this 2 stars because we had an 815 pm reservation and were not seated until nearly 930! After checking in with the host twice, after seeing people walk in and get a table, it was apparent he kept forgetting about us. We were never apologized to for the late seating, nor were we offered anything. I even emailed the restaurant and received zero reply. Not good customer service!" Meanwhile, Hallie T. is upset about the news that the restaurant can sue diners for complaining online. She gave the place one star on Yelp today.

At other restaurants, posting an image of your meal could also lead to legal issues, at least in Germany. Those who photograph and upload images of restaurant meals could be sued by the chef who created the dish for copyright infringement. The country's copyright laws protect "elaborately arranged food" which is considered to be "artistic property of the creator." The law mainly applies to fancier meals that feature an "advanced level" of design.

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