ONE of Lyme Regis’ most critically-acclaimed restaurants hit the national headlines this week, after asking a party of “abysmal” customers never to return.
Seafront restaurant Tom’s, which has built up an excellent reputation for its high-quality service and food since opening in late 2020, was left £350 short after a party of 10 refused to pay their bill.
Chef and owner Tom Robinson took to Facebook after the incident to warn other restaurants and ask the customers “never to return”, which has made headlines up and down the country.
The incident took place on Saturday evening, when the town was packed with visitors enjoying the scorching weather.
The party of 10, including four children, booked their table just an hour before dining and were said to have “gone big” on their order, choosing some of the most expensive items on the menu.
The first sign of trouble came when the guests complained about their steaks.
Chef Tom said he checked the quality and disagreed, but at this stage said he wanted to satisfy his customers so staff went out of their way to appease the group and offered them free drinks.
The situation escalated quickly when the bill was presented at the end of the night, with staff made to feel “very uncomfortable” as the diners became aggressive and refused to pay for all food.
It was then that some of the 50 other diners in the restaurant complained about the party’s behaviour, with one diner saying he had felt so uncomfortable that he had gone to sit in his nearby car.
Others had to ask the children to stop climbing on outside furniture, including gas patio heaters and a fuse box, and one diner was hit on the head with a plastic beach spade.
Mr Robinson said: “It was then that we realised that this was not a normal situation. We wanted to deal with it in the best way possible, to ensure our other diners still enjoyed their night and that it did not escalate further.
“I asked my staff whether they thought it could escalate into violence if I took it further, and they were all positive that it would. I wanted to protect the welfare of my team.”
Mr Robinson eventually took the decision not to call the police, as he felt this would cause disruption to other customers, and the group were asked to leave without paying their bill, leaving the restaurant £350 short.
“They were saying things like ‘I only have £25 on this card’ and ‘I only have £20 cash’,” Tom added.
“It was clear they could not afford what they had ordered so it was calculated. I really believe they had every intention of not paying before they even walked in.”
Mr Robinson said he was “disappointed” by the incident, especially knowing how hard his staff had worked throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
The restaurant was recently awarded an AA Rosette and reached the finals of the prestigious Trencherman’s Awards, nominated in both the Best Newcomer and Best Front of House categories.
“My team work tirelessly and they are very good at conflict resolution,” he said.
“If there is ever a negative situation we always want to turn it into a positive.
“We are all incredibly passionate about what we do and have really been pushing ourselves, especially since receiving the AA Rosette.
“When we have an entire table sending back their food dissatisfied, the chefs go home disheartened and upset. This same food has been tried and rated highly by professional critics.”