HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Handbag ruined after food spills on it - What should restaurant do?


We went to a very upscale steakhouse in NNJ, had reservations, were seated at a 4 top. I put my bag on a spare seat. The next morning, I noticed 2 large stains on the front of it - basically meat juices and tiny green specks.

A few days later, I took it to a specialty dry cleaner, who said it's about $175 to start and he made it very clear to me that there was very little hope in getting the stain out completely. I was shocked! I had him write up an estimate and took it to the restaurant that day and spoke with the manager in the afternoon between lunch & dinner service.

He was very polite, remembered me (we had spoken briefly) and copied the estimate and promised to get back to me after speaking to the owner and pulling our check. He stated that the $175 was close to the purchase price ($300) and that it made sense to just get a new bag.

He hasn't called me back, it's been 2 weeks, and I stopped in one day and he wasn't in. I am really surprised he hasn't called me, he was SO NICE and understanding in person.

What is fair to expect from the restaurant???? What should I do next?

FYI - Our check total was maybe $225, and we've only dined there a few times (others paid).

  1. If you didn't notice the stains until the next morning, how do you know it was the restaurant's fault? Now if the waiter spilled something in clear view of your party, then the resto should offer at least to pay the cleaning bill, but if no one saw who did the spilling, why do think they should compensate you?

    2 Replies
    1. re: iluvcookies

      I completely agree. There's no evidence it was anyone at the restaurant's fault.

      1. He should have called you back if he said he was going to. That being said, how do we know you or one of your companions didn't drop meat on the purse? How is this the restaurants fault?

        1. Restaurant should not do anything, no proof the stains came from there. The chair seats and backs would be all splattered if this sort of thing happened on any regular basis. (Alternately, that particular chair would be all messy yet nobody at the table or serving noticed it happening when it did.)

          If you did not notice stains at night/until you saw it again in daylight, nobody else will notice when you use the bag again.

          3 Replies
            1. re: Snorkelvik

              It has two sides. If it cost $300 or more, both sides should be beautiful. Keep the 'dirty' side toward yourself.

              1. re: Cathy

                Well, it has a front side and a back side, and the stains are on the FRONT.

          1. I don't think the restaurant owes you anything.

            1. It's poor form for the manager to not return a promised callback, but it's poor form of you to expect the restaurant to help you purchase a new bag when you have no way of knowing that the restaurant is at fault here.

              1. I don't think you've got a clear cut case here, I'm so sorry to say. I believe the stains are what you suspect, but unless you actually see the incident happen, you just can't be so sure that you expect to hold the restaurant responsible.
                The manager should have handled this right away, and it's clearly poor form that you've been left to wait for an answer.

                1. Of course it's the restaurant's fault! The next morning I see 2 giant stains on the handbag, including specs of green. There is no way it happened anywhere else. We didn't see it because it was after 11pm, we got in the car, and went home. I didn't reach into my handbag the entire night. It was on a spare chair that wasn't all the way pushed in, we were 2 people at a 4-top. Neither I nor my husband were close enough to spill anything on it.

                  We did recall the busboy holding our cleared plates at an awkward angle, asking if we wanted anything wrapped up, that's probably when it happened.

                  Let's pretend I noticed the problem at the restaurant that evening, the cleaner says it's unlikely the stains will come out - what does the restaurant owe me?

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Snorkelvik

                    Ok....IF you saw it happen, and IF you addressed it right away-- you've got a case for replacement.
                    Alas, this is not the case, but you never know...you may get compensation. I'm not saying you shouldn't try. I'm saying your case is weakened by your not noticing something that apparently was a significant enough event to ruin your purse.
                    I wish you luck and satisfaction with it!

                    1. re: monavano

                      I agree, monavano. Being completely objective, I would say that it does not appear that Snorkelvik's position meets the needed preponderance. Particularly since she didn't notice the damage until the following day and didn't notify the restaurant of the damage until several days after she dined there. Sorry, but I'd say you're completely out of luck, unless the restaurant pays the repair as a nice gesture, but they certainly aren't under any obligation. And they most certainly don't owe you for a new hand bag - that's just silly.

                      While the bus boy or restaurant very well may have caused the stains, your delay in notifying them harms your claim.

                    2. re: Snorkelvik

                      You said: "It was on a spare chair that wasn't all the way pushed in..".
                      Translation: The spare chair that you choose as a seat for your purse, you choose not to push in" ; where would you have set your purse had you and your husband been at that 4-top with two other dining companion? Take ownership of that side of the matter, and offer to split the cost 50/50 with the restaurant... Good luck

                      1. re: Snorkelvik

                        even if you are100% sure it happened at the restaurant, you cannot conclude it is the fault of the restaurant. maybe the green flecks flew out of your or your companions mouth. maybe it was the chair, maybe it was the restaurant, maybe it was you, maybe it was the people at the next table.

                        no number of exclamation points will take away that uncertainty. no need to get testy because you expected everyone to agree with you, and then they did not.

                      2. I would suggest you take it to your local shoe repair to see if they can get those stains out.
                        They're the best and for a nominal fee, they work magic on handbags.
                        Is it on the leather or fabric?
                        $175 is an absurd quote and I can see why the restaurant is not responding back.
                        I wish you all the best and let us know how it turns out!

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: Beach Chick

                          I did take it to the local shoe repair guy, and he said he doesn't do that kind of work and recommended the dry cleaner I visited.

                          Trust me, I thought it was absurd too, I expected to pay $50 and not even contact the restaurant. He said it's that pricey b/c of the leather and the nature of the stain, and it is unlikely to even come out.

                          1. re: Snorkelvik

                            I would go to another shoe repair..Google shoe repair shops in your area.
                            I would not recommend using any type of chemical on your bag.
                            Another thought is going to a luggage repair place..
                            I totally feel your pain.

                            From Google:
                            'FOOD STAINS
                            Most food spills will wipe right off of finished leather without leaving a stain. However, if you have one which has begun to set in, mix one part mild dish soap and one part warm water, then apply with a soft cloth to the stain. Rub it in for a minute or so, then wipe away with warm water. Particularly greasy stains may require a bit of all-purpose de-greaser on a rag instead of the soap & water concoction.'

                            1. re: Beach Chick

                              I appreciate your reply, and it reminds me of something the dry cleaner said - since the leather is dyed, not xxxx, the stain is unlikely to come out.

                              Well at least you all have lowered my expectations - still shocked that everyone wants to doubt my premise, rather than accept it at face value and JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION - what does the restaurant owe me?

                                1. re: Snorkelvik

                                  I think the restaurant owes you the "average" cost of a normal dry cleaning in your area. Maybe 30 bucks...and an apology for the accident and one for not returning your call.

                                  1. re: Snorkelvik

                                    We have, Snorkelvik! You see a path of righteousness and eschew deviation from your thought process.
                                    Basically, the restaurant owes you bubkas. The big goose egg. Nil. Nada.
                                    Will they compensate you in part or whole? Perhaps. We don't have frickin' crystal balls and we can't channel Judy Judy!
                                    FWIW, I believe your claim. You just can't prove it.

                                    1. re: Snorkelvik

                                      While your premise may be probable, you have no direct proof, and thus, the restaurant owes you nothing. They may choose to compensate you some amount as a courtesy gesture.

                                      1. re: Snorkelvik

                                        The restaurant owes you nothing...I don't doubt you at all but anyone could say anything after they left the premises..especially, when you gave the $175 amount..they probably think your scamming...not that you are!
                                        I would also contact the manufacture of the handbag to see what remedies they have and some have a repair centers..like Coach.

                                        1. re: Snorkelvik

                                          We've tried to answer your question. Although it's obvious to you what happened, it's not so obvious to the restaurant. They owe you nothing.

                                          1. re: Snorkelvik

                                            I don't know the color of your purse now, but I strongly suggest you find a good shoe repair store and ask them if the leather can be re-dyed in a darker color to cover the stain. Since you've already indicated a willingness to spend $50 you might be able to use that money for a dye job and put this incident behind you.

                                            Incidentally, one good way to find a quality shoe repair place is to go to the most upscale department store in town and ask them where they send shoes when customers need repairs. At least that's the way it worked for me in the DC area. I went to Nordstrom's and found the name of the shoe repair shop I've happily used for a decade.

                                            1. re: Snorkelvik

                                              Zip. Zilch. Nada.

                                              If you had SEEN the spill when it occured, then it' different.

                                              But you didn't see anything spill, you didn't notice it 'til the next day, and didn't contact them until several days down the road. In that time span, you could have been at three other restaurants, and there's no way to definitively pin any sort of liability on them.

                                              While I agree that they should have returned your call...they owe you nothing more.

                                              The fact that you don't *like* our collective response doesn't make us wrong.

                                      2. I agree with most of the other posters. Unless you saw it happen, it is difficult to prove that the restaurant was responsible. Playing the Devil's Advocate, perhaps another patron spilled meat juices over his/her hands and accidentally transferred it to your bag as you were leaving.

                                        I'm not saying that they are innocent. I'm saying that there isn't enough hard evidence at this point.

                                        1. "What is fair to expect from the restaurant???? What should I do next?"

                                          Regarding your two questions:

                                          Compensation: Nothing. Unfortunately you didn't witness and/or report the damage at the time it occurred. The restaurant might wish to provide you w something to mitigate reputational risk but I wouldn't expect anything, as others have noted.

                                          Next Steps: Decide whether you wish to attempt to restore the purse or replace it. The dry cleaner you spoke w mentioned there was little hope of fully removing the stain so you may wish to obtain a second opinion from the manufacturer to assist you in making an informed choice.

                                          Sorry this happened. The good news is that it's unlikely you'll be in this situation again as I'm imagining you'll be keeping a very close eye on your wait staff and your belongings on future visits to restaurants.

                                          1. It's not fair to expect anything from the restaurant, for the reasons other posters have raised. Had you noticed the staining before you left the restaurant, and discussed it with the restaurant then and there, you would elicit a totally different response from posters on this board. Most unfortunate, but it is impossible to prove that the restaurant caused the spill and it is unreasonable to expect them to reimburse you. Your next step should be to clean or replace the handbag at your own expense, and chalk it up to experience.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: janniecooks

                                              Just a thought, when the busboy asked you if you wanted a "doggie Bag" or something "wrapped up"; maybe in the car the package spilled on your bag. Just trying to think like a reasonable person.

                                            2. Folks, at this point, we think a resounding answer has been spoken, and we'd like to avoid any further piling on as the posts get more heated, so we're going to lock this now.