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Restaurant 'did not discriminate against disabled girl'

Posted: 28th August 2013   In: Debt Collection Services

The Court of Appeal has ruled that a restaurant did not discriminate against a disabled girl when it refused to allow her to eat its food outside its recognised seating area.

The issue arose when the girl, who has Down’s syndrome and suffers from autism, visited a restaurant at a theme park with her family. The restaurant had a policy of only allowing its food to be consumed on its own premises.

The girl’s parents didn’t want to eat at the restaurant. Instead, they wanted to take the restaurant meals to a nearby public picnic area but were told they could not do so. They explained that the girl would become upset if she was asked to move from the picnic area and offered to carry the food outside themselves.

The restaurant still refused.

The family’s discrimination claim went all the way to the Court of Appeal, which found in favour of the restaurant.

It held that it was unlawful for providers of services to discriminate against disabled people by failing to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate them.

However, in considering cases like this, it was necessary to determine what kind of service was being provided. An owner of a restaurant was not a mere meal provider; he provided a service which could best be described as “serving meals and drinks at tables prepared with chairs and eating equipment such as glasses and cutlery”.

It was different from a takeaway service providing food to be consumed away from the premises.

The Code of Practice published by the Disability Rights Commission made it clear that the duty to make reasonable adjustments did not require a service provider to take any steps that would fundamentally alter the nature of its service, trade or business.

The company in this case was providing a restaurant service, not a takeaway service and so did not have to make any adjustments. The discrimination claim therefore had to fail.

Please contact Neil O’Callaghan if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article.

Posted by: Neil O'Callaghan
Dispute Resolution
Luton Office