More and more, restaurants are requiring credit cards before allowing customers to make a dinner reservation, and they’ll charge you, and possibly say nasty things about you on Twitter, if you fail to show up.
It seems as if restaurants hate customers who are no-shows on reservations about as much as customers hate it when restaurants screw up their dinner reservations and don’t have a table ready.
Nowadays, it’s an especially bad—and potentially costly and embarrassing—idea to make a dinner reservation and then not show up. According to the Wall Street Journal, it’s a big trend among high-end restaurants to now require a credit card to hold a reservation, much like hotels require a credit card to guarantee a room booking. And, in the same way that hotels charge customers if they don’t show up and fail to cancel their reservations, many restaurants now hit no-shows with fees. In January, for instance, Eleven Madison (in Manhattan, of course) started charging $75 per head for parties who make reservations but don’t show up, and don’t cancel at least 48 hours in advance. Another Manhattan fine-dining establishment, Torrisi Italian Specialties, offers a tasting menu for $125 per person—and charges the full $125 for each no-show who hasn’t canceled 24 or more hours ahead of time.
The reservation service OpenTable says that 10% of restaurants around the country now require credit cards for reservations, and 15% of New York City restaurants do so. It’s not clear, though, what portion of these restaurants actually charges diners who reserve but fail to show.
Restaurants are taking action against no-shows because empty tables represent lost revenues. Also, the rise of online reservation services such as OpenTable seems to have brought with them an increase in no-shows. Many customers flippantly reserve online and don’t think twice about failing to show up. Apparently, reserving via the Web isn’t taken as seriously as reservations made by phone.
Besides charging no-shows, some restaurants are also trying to shame them—or perhaps just vent a little. In the same way that diners who’ve had a lousy meal or awful service will immediately post their thoughts on Twitter, Facebook, TripAdvisor, or Yelp, some restaurant staff are turning to social media to out no-show diners. At other restaurants, managers will call up customers and ask for an explanation about why they were no-shows.
While a penalty for no-shows is primarily a phenomenon at high-end restaurants (I haven’t heard of this happening at the Friendly’s my kids are always begging me to take them to), it’s not limited strictly to swanky big-city establishments. Last fall, Walt Disney World changed its reservation policy, making credit cards a requirement in many cases. Now, at two dozen restaurants within the central Florida resort, no-shows who reserve and haven’t canceled at least a day in advance will be charged $10 to $25 per head.
No word on whether Mickey, Donald, Goofy, or any of the princesses will also Tweet bad things about the rude customers who didn’t cancel their reservations on time.