Toby Carvery has become the subject of legal action from almost 200 people who claimed they fell ill after eating at the group's Exeter Arms branch.
Solicitor Irwin Mitchell has confirmed that it is representing 193 people in personal injury claims. It said that the diners contracted the norovirus vomiting illness after eating at the Devon restaurant in late March and early April.
The restaurant first closed on 2 April for a deep clean after a man was sick in the restaurant on 29 March, before reopening for the Easter weekend. It closed again on 7 April after fears of an outbreak but reopened on 10 April, before closing a third time on 12 April, after visits from the Environmental Health department, which tested the site positive for norovirus. It finally re-opened on 20 April.
Those bringing the claims include a pregnant woman, several elderly diners, and children, plus a group of 24 colleagues from the Cat Protection League, who said that within two days of the meal only two of the party felt well enough to go to work.
Amandeep Dhillon, partner and public health lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, leading the case, said: "Reports of an illness outbreak of this kind in the UK are extremely concerning and it is vital an investigation is conducted to determine the cause of the outbreak and if more could have been done to prevent its spread to other people visiting the Exeter Arms following the initial closure.
"It is possible that there could be important lessons to be learned here, which might reduce the likelihood of similar problems occurring in the future."
Public health lawyer Tonia Kingsley, from Irwin Mitchell, confirmed that the Toby Carvery had co-operated with its investigation so far. The law firm is still in the process of gathering logistical information from diners, including details of who ate when, and when customers subsequently became ill.
Kingsley added that the firm was confident in its investigation.
She said: "We wouldn't be taking on the case at this stage if we didn't think we could be successful."
A spokesperson for Toby Carvery defended the group against criticism that it had not shut down immediately after the outbreak, saying that it had received advice from Exeter Council's Environmental Health authority to steam clean the site, having then obtained clearance for trading before reopening.
In a statement to The Caterer, Toby Carvery parent company Mitchells & Butlers said: "We did close the Toby Carvery at Exeter for a few days in early April. Once we had identified that the sickness was due to the norovirus bug we implemented a thorough industrial clean of the business and reopened on Monday 20 April at 8am."
The company declined to comment on individual claims, but added: "We do take the wellbeing of all our customers very seriously and will continue to act professionally and appropriately in this matter. You can be assured that our sites adhere to rigorous health and safety standards, and no further incidents have been reported."
Latest video from The Caterer