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Canceling a Reservation

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My of my pet peeves about dining out is canceling reservations at a restaurant without calling.

On those rare occasions when I may need to cancel a dinner reservation, I call the restaurant to formally cancel and apolgize. Is it me or shouldn't that always be the appropriate thing to do.

Recently, we waited close to 30 for a table only to be told that they had been holding one for a called-in rez and they appeared to be a no show...that 'our' table was now ready..

What's your take?

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  1. Well I agree in a way but you never know their reason for not calling. May have been an emergency.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Johnresa

      May have been, of course, but I'll bet for every no-show that results from an honest emergency, there are another thousand or so that just change their minds and don't have the common decency to be bothered calling. They're the ones that ruin it for the rest of us and make restaurants take "deposits" - a practice that I hate but fully understand.

    2. FWIW, the reservation is not canceled just because the party decides not to show...it's canceled when they let the restaurant know they're not coming (by calling, personal visit, or even e-mail). And no-shows, with few exceptions (pretty much just emergencies), are just plain rude.

      4 Replies
      1. re: ricepad

        Exactly. I was puzzled at the usage of "cancelling" as a passive act....

        1. re: Karl S

          Same with any appointment. Also last minute cancelling is not much better than a no show.

          1. re: scubadoo97

            In a restaurant, even a last minute call to cancel/say you're not going to show up will (or at least might) help some. Unlike a doctor's office or salon, for example, where it's unlikely that they'll be able to fill the slot with 3 minutes notice, the restaurant might have a table waiting (as in the OP's example) and now know that they don't need to hold the previously reserved table. They may lose the business from the table that didn't show up, but the last minute cancellation could still help out in terms of managing their customers that are there.

            1. re: ccbweb

              and it helps them to manage their staff too, eg they can send a server home maybe.

      2. Definitely call to cancel as a curtesy. No need to apologize. Some restaurants ask for a credit card number to hold a reservation.

        1. Question for the pros: Do restaurants track reservations and no-shows? Like, do people get a little black mark next to their name that will impact their seating or require a deposit if they try again sometime? Seems like it wouldn't be too hard to set up since many restaurants use computerized reservations.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Grubbjunkie

            If the restaurant uses Open Table it is for them to track cancelations and no shows. It's also easy for smaller places to do that. As for a "black mark"...well let's just say if you fail to show for too many reservations you'll be remembered. There may be nothing overt but you could start hearing "I'm sorry but we're boked at the time you request."

            1. re: kimmer1850

              And that would be well deserved. The only justification for failing to affirmatively cancel is a health or similar grave emergency where one did not have an opportunity to do so. Otherwise, its slimy.

            2. re: Grubbjunkie

              "Do restaurants track reservations and no-shows? Like, do people get a little black mark next to their name that will impact their seating or require a deposit if they try again sometime?"

              I've done this. Except since it is so easy for a customer to dispute the charge I just blacklist them after 2 no shows. They can come eat, but they can't make a reservation. They get to enjoy waiting in the same kind of gridlock they caused with their rudeness.

              A hospitality form of instant karma.

            3. I'm always surprised by people's reactions when I call a restaurant to cancel. "Oh, you're so polite" or "Why go through all the trouble?"

              Then when I describe why it's not just my being overly polite but actually helps the restaurant not lose business, their response is "Oh my gosh, I never thought about it like that!"

              Basically, most people think of reservations as a convenience for the guest without considering the pros/cons for the restaurant owner.

              These same people think that it's easy for a restaurant to change your party of 5 to 7 or 3 at the drop of a hat, which is my other pet peeve.

              1. I use Open Table for almost 100% of our reservations in SF. It's just the click of the mouse to cancel. However, Open Table does keep track of no shows. And, I believe if you have 3 or more they may revoke you ability to use Open Table.

                However, If I have made a phone reservation and know I can't make it, there would be no way I would just forget about it. I always call. As someone pointed out, no need to apologize although I'm sure most people would say, I'm sorry but I need to cancel."

                2 Replies
                1. re: rtmonty

                  I'm not sure that your comment on Open Table cancellations is correct I am an Open Table VIP Member and just this last trip cancelled or modified at least 3 reservations. I always get a very curtious e-mail thanking me for officially cancelling. The restaurant pays Open Table for the reservation management so Open Table is not obligated to play traffic cop.

                  1. re: jksluck

                    Note the difference between "no show" and "cancelling."

                2. Always cancel reservation, one of my pet peeves. I am also always surprised how nice the people are that I had this common coutesy. I bet the percentage that do is under 50%.

                  1. I always call, and the reaction of the restaurant is almost always very grateful - as if people don't often call to cancel.

                    1. We always call but, like many have said, we're often greeted with surprised gratititude. There's an increasing lack of civility today and because many would consider this a commercial transaction, perhaps they feel they don't have to call - like not telling a store you're not coming.
                      If you think about the number of people who respond slowly or not at all for weddings or large private parties, think about how high the rate must be for restaurants!
                      I've heard people say they've made reservations at several places so they could decide what they felt like eating that night. Did they cancel the others?

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: MakingSense

                        If they didn't, they deserve bad food and bad service at the place they chose....

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          Making Sense, wow! You hit on my 2nd pet peeve..RSVP'ing! Is it so hard to RSVP an invitation...or worse yet RSVP and not show? I've had so many friends complain that even birthday parties for their kids have cost them money because invites were either ignored or treated as open-invitations. What has become of common courtesy and resonable commitment?

                          1. re: HillJ

                            Even worse: responding to an invite by saying they can't make it, or just plain not responding -- then show up at the event... causing problems with seating, amount of food, etc.

                              1. re: S U

                                While technically the two situations are both rude, obviously the NO-then-YES situation is more gravely rude and of the two is the one more likely -- if the places have already been set for the table -- to be responded to by: "How nice of you to stop by! I would love to chat but I have guests to whom I must attend. Drop me a note to propose a time and place we can get together. Ciao for now!" [Close door]

                                Indulging such a grave rudeness only encourages more. Believe me, I've made that mistake and won't make it again. And it's the kind of rudeness over which I am quite willing to let a friendship go if the friend decides to contest such a reaction, because that would reveal an anti-social narcissism on their part.

                                With close family, it may be harder, but the joy of adulthood is choosing your family.

                          2. When I was an executive assistant at an IB, I used to make (and cancel!) reservations all the time.

                            Some $$ restaurants used to take the credit card number as a guarantee - if you didn't cancel the reservation and wound up as a no-show, they would charge the card. I think the fee for a no-show was $25. (This is in NYC).

                            Unfortunately, that's one way to solve the problem!

                            1. No-shows happen all the time, especially on busy weekend nights. Also, they are more often than not large parties. I cannot tell how how agravating it is to set aside large numbers of tables, while other people are waiting for tables, only to have the party not show up. We give them 15 minutes and then turn them over to the waiting list. But it is still a huge pain in the butt. It is true that when people call to cancel, we are always grateful, so as to let them know they are doing the right thing.

                              And the "we have a reservation for 6 people, but now there's two more of us", on a busy night - then being told we have no room for two more. grrr. People never seem to understand why this is a problem.

                              Thank you everybody above who share the frustration, buth on the customer side and the waiter side.

                              1. I always call to cancel reservations if I am not going to make it, after all, if you invited people to your home you would expect them to call if they weren't coming, wouldn't you? I am occasionally guilty of adding or substracting a person, but I try to be considerate if there is a problem.

                                1. I was so peeved at my brother-in-law the other night when he called half an hour before our reservation at my favorite restaurant to say he wasn't coming... I hope the restaurant didn't hate me!!

                                  I always call and cancel if I have to... I cannot believe that people actually make several reservations and then decide at the last minute where they feel like going... I didn't know this happened!!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Katie Nell

                                    1/2 hour prior is really not so bad. In fact, in my restaurant, it is perfectly acceptable. The reservation is far enough in advance that the table can probably be filled seamlessly with walk-ins.

                                  2. Absolutely agree with other posters - definitely call and cancel. It's just plain rude and unfair not to.

                                    1. Def call and cancel. In my experience those that don't call to cancel are usually those who have a host of other reso's around town. Oh you'd be surprised how many are out there! Esp of 'big' days: Mother's Day, Easter, Valentines etc...these are the folk who will routinely book multiple places and then let the 'guest of honour' choose which one to dine at, leaving all other reso's hanging in the balance. At one place i worked we did not formally black mark the name, but yes, in the notes it would show if the caller had been a 'no show' on multiple occassions, and they would esp be remembered if those were 'big' nights.
                                      It's rude, it's annoying, and its' karma coming back to you if you don't cancel!

                                      1. Oh, man, *always* call. That way if they're holding it for you they now know it's available. Common courtesy.

                                        On the restaurant side, it's a balancing act. Wait 15 minutes, but it may be that there are special conditions. Maybe there was traffic, maybe the weather is terrible, maybe the parking took forever. Or maybe they just decided not to show. Hard to know if they'll come rushing through the door so grateful that you held their table, or if they just blew you off and you should seat the couple waiting in the bar.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Louise

                                          I fought against having a cell 'phone for a long time, but having all those numbers is sure handy. If I'm stuck and gonna be late, I call. BEFORE I'm late.

                                          1. re: boltnut55

                                            I do too. Always have.

                                            I was usually surprised to hear the person on the other end of the line thanking me so effusively for what I considered just a common courtesy.

                                            Guess it's not so common after all.

                                          2. I guess that's why many places take your credit card info now for a reservation. Any way, I always call...might make someone happy...and in turn that might be me another time.

                                            1. I've never been affected by a non-cancelled reservation personally, but I do always think it is rude to not call when you're not coming! So I hear ya!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Chew on That

                                                Hilltowner, i could not agree more. Let me squeeze in 2 extra people. we will squeez!. It's not about how you fit around the table all the time. sometimes it is a matter if the kitchen can handle your now Large table.

                                                There are many pet peeves.
                                                The person who is running late but does not call. If you would like the courtesy of the hostess holding the table, then do them the courtesy to let them know you are running late.
                                                So maybe times you are at 14 min of a 15 min late give the table away time frame, and then they show. Or you No Show them and 20 min later they show up!

                                                also, as a side note. Please limit walk ins to tables less than 5. Do not walk in with 8 or 10 people and be surprised when there is a 2 hour want. Most places have a limited amount of tables that can accommodate large parties.

                                              2. What about this: My friend reserved a table for two on a weekday night. When we arrived, we found the place mostly empty. My friend was afraid that having reserved unnecessarily would make him look "uncool," so he didn't identify us and we were seated. Rude? I thought so. On the other hand, no one was turned away or had to wait because of us. Has anyone else experienced this?

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: Glencora

                                                  Hopefully he stays "just a friend". When you worry about looking uncool then you truly are uncool. I would have said, " We have a reservation for 2." B/C if you like the place and call to make a reservation when they are busy, they might remember that you no showed before, even though you technically didn't.

                                                  1. re: Glencora

                                                    I'll make a reservation any day. At least I hope that when I arrive a table will be waiting for me. I don't go back to restaurants that don't know the concept of the reservation.

                                                    1. re: Glencora

                                                      how old is your friend? that is major silliness.

                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                        Old enough to know better. He's shy, I guess. And as for remaining "just friends," we both married to other people.

                                                    2. I have called to cancel a res at a fine dining place, and been thanked profusely for calling. I was told that someone calling to cancel is rare. I have also called to say we're running late, and never had someone not hold the table.

                                                      I'm a property manager, so I deal with the public a lot, and in my experience, people who exhibit common courtesy are rare, rare, rare. I'd say 75% of my appointments are no shows, sometimes more.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: amyzan

                                                        that's really sad. I always call to cancel reservations, too.

                                                      2. What I don't understand is that 100% of posters call to cancel and apparently close to that number find that restaurants are surprised that someone would do so.

                                                        This seems to not match.

                                                        It has not been my experience that restaurants are surprised when I call to cancel. They say "Thanx for calling" but they say that when I call to ask their hours too.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: FrankJBN

                                                          where are all these alleged people that DON'T call to cancel?! hiding away, because they know they do wrong, but will continue to do so?

                                                          have you ever tried to sell a house F.S.B.O.? i did. i took off a LOT of time off of work to give showings. about half of the people just never showed up, never called. i was pissed, but also desperate to sell. so i started calling them back. and calling. and calling. and calling. and when they finally did answer i'd be super-sweet, ask them if they remembered about the house at 515 elm street and how i was still at home waiting for them, and did they still want to come look at the house, or should i go back to work? i got a sick pleasure out of making people squirm. always call to cancel, folks. you wouldn't want to have me as your reservationist. ;)