The Restaurant Strikes Back

As it is, profit margins for restaurants can be paper thin—it’s the liquor markup that keeps them afloat most times. But the worst is when a large party reserves a table and decides not to show up. The establishment had most likely turned down numerous would-be paying customers with little recourse. Well, there are a few options these days, as Sumathi Reddy recently reported in the Wall Street Journal.

A select group of high-end chefs and restaurants are fighting back—from charging people who don’t cancel in time to using Twitter and other social media to call out no-shows…. Some restaurants, like Wylie Dufresne’s wd~50, will turn down a reservation from someone with a history of not showing up. Other chefs, like Ron Eyester of Rosebud in Atlanta, will jot down a note if a diner seems wavering on the phone, so that the staff knows not to hold the empty table too long.

And then there is the financial penalty:

In January, Eleven Madison began charging anyone who didn’t show up or cancel a reservation 48 hours beforehand $75 a head…. When Torrisi Italian Specialties in Manhattan began accepting reservations in November, it chose to charge diners for the full $125 tasting menu if they don’t cancel 24 hours ahead.

According to restaurateur Drew Nieporent, quoted in the piece, “Quite frankly, it’s worse now, because with online reservations we’re not even speaking to the customer…. So it could be someone in theory who is a concierge at a hotel or a broker who can book prime-time tables 30 days in advance, hold on to tables for 29 days and maybe, if they feel like it, call to cancel.”

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