Let’s say you decided to save some money. You decide to pack food for lunch instead of eating outside. However, you don’t want to be left out from socialising with colleagues during lunch.
You bring your ‘tapau’ food to the restaurant where your colleagues are eating, and you see a “NO OUTSIDE FOOD ALLOWED” sign. You ignore it because you’ve done this before but nothing happens. But, this time the waiter decides to shoo you out. This leaves you humiliated and you wonder, “Can restaurants actually stop you from bringing outside food?”
What can the restaurants do if you bring outside food?
Restaurants are generally quite reasonable. First, they might just tell you that you cannot bring outside food. Next, they might charge you for bringing outside food. Only in extreme cases, they will kick you out.
Can they actually kick me out? Yes, they can. According to Fahri Azzat, a lawyer friend of ours, the restaurant has the right to kick you out. Even though there are no laws that specifically prevents people from bringing outside food, it is important to note that restaurants are private property and owners of private property can impose their rules on others. So, when you enter their premise, it means that you are bound by their rules. Here’s Fahri’s explanation for it:
“All restaurants are private property. Owners or possessors of property can grant admission (or in legal parlance, license) to someone to enter their land. In granting permission, they can impose conditions under which you do so.” -Fahri Azzat in an email reply to Asklegal
Basically, their restaurant, their rules. So, if a restaurant has a strict formal dress code, then you will have to follow suit. What if you were to buy a drink in their restaurant and eat your homemade food. Does this means that the restaurant has to serve you? The answer is it depends, as some restaurants will allow it and some which won’t allow it.
You might think the restaurant is just thinking about the bottom line when they do this, and they only want you to buy their food and drinks. But there is a bigger reason for this rule.
They don’t want to be responsible if you get food poisoning
It’s not that they are afraid that you will sue them. They are not liable for the outside food. This falls on to the place where you got the food. This can be found in section 13(1) of The Food Act 1983, where it is an offence to prepare food that is dangerous to human health.
What they are afraid of is the potential PR nightmare that this might cause. You might get sick from the outside food, but if you were to throw up at the premises, people might think that it is caused by their food. As Fahri explains:
“ The restaurant will not be liable. The supplier or provider of the food that was brought into the restaurant will be liable. However, the restaurant may look bad to others because a 'customer' looks as if they were ill because of the food eaten in the restaurant.”
Can the restaurant fine/kick you out for bringing outside food?
As mentioned before, restaurants are private property and you are bound by their conditions when you are on their premises. Some restaurants might charge you for it but it would depend on how strict the restaurant enforces the policy. Some might just ask you to leave the restaurant.
If you choose to stay even when they ask you to leave, you are potentially trespassing in their premises. In Fahri’s words:
“If you infringe the restaurant regulations, they can say you did not meet the conditions of entry and eject you. If you refuse, you would have trespassed on the premises.”
By remaining on their premises, you are committing a “criminal trespass” under section 441 of The Penal Code.
And you can be fined up to a maximum of RM3000 and/or jailed a maximum of 6 months under section 447 of The Penal Code.
At the end of the day, it is best to follow the restaurant’s rules and regulations. The ‘No Outside Food Allowed’ is more than just an economical reason. They don’t want to look bad when you get sick from eating outside food in their restaurant. Ask the restaurant first if you could join your colleagues but remember that no means no.