When you go abroad you can expect to leave a tip after a meal or such, but until recently, tipping has never really been a big thing in the UK.

Service charge can be a tricky thing to comprehend if you're not from a big city, or just entirely alien to the concept.

It's tipping, essentially.

Unlike when you're abroad, a service charge is typically added to your bill without your say-so, which can put you in an awkward spot.

If the service was rubbish, do you still have to pay the extra percentage? Which depending on the bill, can sometimes be substantial.

Under the Consumer Rights Act, a restaurant is legally required to use reasonable care and skill when providing its service. 

If the restaurant falls below this standard you can refuse to pay some or all of a service charge, depending on how bad the service actually is. 

Problems with service charges

Usually, restaurants either leave the service charge entirely to the discretion of the customer or automatically add a charge to the bill.

According to UK law, service charges added by the restaurant are entirely optional.

If you aren't happy with the service or if you'd prefer to calculate your own tip, you can ask for it to be removed and for a new bill to be printed, as per MyLawyer.co.uk

Standard of service

When you eat a meal in a restaurant, you're entering into a contract with the restaurant for the provision of a service.

It's an implied condition of any contract that the service will be carried out with reasonable care and skill, within a reasonable time and at a reasonable cost. The 'care and skill' that you can expect are the same that a reasonable person can expect from a reasonably competent restaurateur of their particular quality or reputation.

If the service doesn't meet these standards

If the service doesn't meet these standards, you're entitled to deduct from any service charge an amount that reflects the extent to which the service was unsatisfactory.