The Dirtiest Word in the Restaurant Industry


The other day I was talking to a restaurant owner. He was complaining about the no-show—the person that ditches a reservation without bothering to cancel. I’d like to think that this is just a matter of ignorance, more than downright rude behavior. Diners just assume the restaurant will give your table away to someone else—no big deal, right?

Not exactly.

Here’s are what a couple industry insiders have to say:

Anjan Mitra, co-owner Dosa on Fillmore and Dosa
“At Dosa on Valencia, we actually stopped taking reservations because we got so many no-shows initially. We took them for the first few weeks and then we stopped. Our servers were getting upset with us because we’d have an hour wait but empty tables when people didn’t show up for their reservations. Now we take them because people started going to the Fillmore Street location where we do take reservations because we didn’t take them on Valencia!”

“At a small restaurant, if even two tables don’t show up, it has a significant impact on your business. At a restaurant, you’ve go this four-and-a-half to five hour window and you have to hold a seat for about half an hour before a reservation and then 15 minutes after for a grace period. If the people don’t show up, you’ve lost that 45 minutes. Sure, you might be able to give it to someone else who’s waiting, but that customer might have been waiting 45 minutes at that point. You lose customer goodwill."

Jordan Dunn, general manager, Mamacita
“No shows are a disappointing occurrence in our restaurant. It may happen once or twice in a night, or several times a week. I’ll save tables for up to an hour and 15 minutes to assure the seating of a reserved guest on our first turn. 
The loss is two-fold: Not only does the restaurant lose the potential sales on the table, but also, guests walking into the restaurant with no reservations may not have to luxury of time to wait, and continue on down the road. I may never see that guest again, because they didn't get the chance to dine and experience our restaurant and possibly return. We've now lost the possibility of repeat business as well.
 So, please let us know:

• Did your party size change? 

• Do you think you might be late or is there another time that is now more preferable?

• Is there a guest that may require special attention or assistance?

• Are their children in the party?
• Is this a celebration of a special event?

"When making reservations, communicating as many details as is possible will give us the opportunity to be better prepared for the guests arrival and expectations.”

The moral of the story: If you can't make it to dinner, please cancel. Don't be a no-show.

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