Family held "hostage" over refusal to pay mandatory 17 percent tip!
Wow - that's a scary precedent set. While I can understand restaurants requiring gratuities for parties over a certain number due to what can easily be a pain in the a** for servers (general confusion, seperate checks, yadayadayada), the issue here was that the service was horrible.
A tip isn't supposed to be "required". It's supposed to be an "extra" for good - or at least decent - service. It doesn't sound like the folks in question felt they received that.
If I were in their shoes, frankly, I'd be on my way to small claims court. I know they didn't want the publicity, but bad publicity runs both ways, & I'd certainly want my day in court after something like this.
This is a crazy case.
Shouldn't a gratuity be up to the customer? Even if it's listed on the menu? It's a gratuity not a service charge.
Also, the restaurant screwed up by locking the doors and holding the group against their will.
Not paying a bill is a civil matter, but holding someone against their will can be criminal.
The restaurant has created a negative press for themselves over a few dollars.
Once you look at the menu and the tip is specified it is legally part of the price and is a tip in name only. They should be required to pay for services rendered. If they dispute the services, then they should take the restaurant to small claims court - but would likely not win. The restaurant lost anyways since they have had some very bad press :p
If the service is that poor, the manager should have at least waived "gratuity". I have had restaurants deduct stuff from the final price and given me a discount for future use (which serves the purpose of trying to pull you back in to demonstrate that it was just an off day - and repair relations). This restaurant probably deserves to go out of business.
BTW, legally it is not "hostage" but "Shopkeeper's privilege" in which they can detain people while the police are in route.