Getting sick from restaurant food

The San Francisco Department of Health closely inspects restaurants through the city to protect the public from dangers like food poisoning. The San Francisco Department of Health closely inspects restaurants through the city to protect the public from dangers like food poisoning.

I don’t know what I was expecting as a response, but that doesn’t seem to be the right one. I have two questions: What should a customer do if they become ill after eating in a restaurant? And if you tell the management, what sort of response is reasonable?


I met a friend for lunch at (a restaurant) today. We shared several delicious courses and went our separate ways. We both became quite ill an hour or so after we finished our meal. I called the restaurant later this afternoon to let them know that there may be a problem with one of the items they are serving. The manager said, “I’m sorry you don’t feel well. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

I’m not an expert on food-borne illnesses, but after getting this e-mail I did a quick brushup. Most common forms of food poisoning take anywhere from four to eight hours to incubate.



I e-mailed the reader and asked exactly what was consumed. I figured that it might have been spoiled fish, since what was consumed was fried and any off flavors might have been masked. However, tracing it back for sure is extremely difficult.

I think the reader did the right thing by calling the restaurant. The restaurant’s response was cautionary, as you might suspect. It sounds to me like the host was asking what the diner was expecting. A gift certificate? Compensation for the illness?

No restaurant manager wants to open up the restaurant for potential lawsuits so all are naturally cautious; on the other hand, no good restaurant wants disgruntled diners.

It’s a thin line to walk, but I think a restaurant can offer a diner comfort without admitting guilt. Managers can say that they go to great lengths to maintain food safety but that the restaurant will redouble the effort, just in case. The restaurant might also offer to comp a dinner on a return visit. The problem is that if a customer really thinks he or she got sick in the restaurant, the last thing that person wants is to return, at least for a good while.

I’d love to hear how restaurants have handled the situation.


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