A couple weekends back three friends asked me to join them for dinner at 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday night. They said they’d let me know where to meet them when they decided on a restaurant. I got a call at 6:30 p.m. from one of them telling me to meet them at so and so restaurant. At 7:00, I got a second call telling me to meet them instead at another nearby restaurant. I had a bad feeling driving to the restaurant.
When I finally met up with them I asked about the change of locations, thinking they made reservations at two restaurants. I was wrong. They made reservations at three restaurants. I was pissed. They knew it and one of them said, “Hey, we cancelled the other two reservations!” “Nobody is going to pat you on the head for cancelling a restaurant reservation on a Saturday night a half hour before the reservation,” I said.
They, and I’m afraid a lot of your customers, have no idea how much they can hurt a restaurant by not showing up for a reservation or cancelling one late in the game.
This incident reminded me of another in March when the owner of a Los Angeles restaurant identified several people on Twitter who failed to show up for their reservations. “All the nice guests who wonder why restaurants overbook and they sometimes have to wait for their reservation should thank people like those below,” tweeted Noah Ellis of Red Medicine, referring to the no-shows he named.
This show of anger likely falls into the category of two wrongs don’t make a right, but a good part of me wants to buy Ellis a beer for kicking ass. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for a restaurant to be held hostage by no-shows. As a frequent restaurant customer, I do know the pain of showing up on time for a reservation and having to wait for a table when I see empty tables being held for people who never show up.
If you’d like to weigh in on the moral implications of outing transgressors online, please do. Would you be so bold as Ellis or was his a case of bad manners and beyond? More importantly, I’d like to hear how you handle no-shows. Do you overbook to compensate for potential no-shows? Do you have another strategy? Email me.
In The Trenches: At the NRA Show in May, more than a few people were excited to tell me that they spotted Rich Melman expediting at Bub City, one of Lettuce Entertain You’s long-standing restaurants that was recently rebooted with the help of Melman’s two sons and daughter. Melman, if you don’t know, is a restaurant industry legend and the founder of Lettuce, a $500 million-plus company with more than 75 restaurants around the country. To say the guy is stinking rich would be an understatement, but there he was on a Saturday night working like his life depended on it. Is it any wonder why he’s so successful? You gotta love it!
Michael Sanson, Editor-in-Chief