Between the apps, restaurant websites and regular old phone calls, it's easier than ever to make dinner reservations these days. But for whatever reason, people don't cancel reservations when they can't make it. It's rude, yes, but it also affects the restaurant in ways you may not have thought of.
Photo by Rob Bertholf.
Restaurant booking service OpenTable took a look at their stats and found that six per cent of diners make reservations and don’t show up. It might not seem like a lot, but chef Michael Voltaggio of Ink in Los Angeles breaks down what that actually means for restaurants in terms of lost earnings:
If you do the simple math, even if you have a check of $50 per person, and two people a night don’t show up, times 365 days a year, that’s over $30,000 that you’re losing out on in your business for that year...
The cost of no-shows goes beyond that, though. They have a certain number of staff on hand depending on what the night’s reservations call for, food items like pre-appetisers and complementary dishes are being prepped in the kitchen, and there’s a table they can’t give away to walk-ins because they’re expecting you. And if it’s a nice place, they may have done even more prep work to get things ready for your experience.
Voltaggio isn’t sure why people feel differently about dinner reservations than they do about any other service. People have no problem canceling Ubers or backing out of theatre tickets, but you also get rated based on how you act with one and pay upfront for the other. Still, when you think about it, skipping out on a dinner reservation is no different than any other instance where you say you’ll be somewhere and don’t show. Just because you don’t know them personally and haven’t paid yet doesn’t mean it’s an acceptable practise.
Establishments try to keep track of repeat no-shows and deny particularly heinous offenders, but for the most part, restaurants are the gullible guy with flowers in hand hoping their date shows up even though they’re 45 minutes late. It isn't hard to do the right thing in these situations, so be kind and try to take the extra minute or so to cancel if you can’t make it.
I didn't live through the Great Depression even though I sometimes eat as if I did. Despite a desire to keep thin I have a bad habit of clearing every last greasy morsel of rice or supposedly decorative garnish that's put in front of me. Kicking this habit has helped me feel better about myself.