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Bombay Cafe on Pico - inane reservation policy (moved from LA)

I'm about to say something not very nice about the Bombay Cafe but only because somebody has to.

They require a credit card to hold a reservation.

This may not be unique to them but it was my first encounter with this inane and rude requirement.
I was told "not to take it personal, it's just our policy because sometimes people leave us hanging."
Since when are customers are under an obligation to patronize any establishment? And what would the charge be if my seven friends and I were ten minutes late?

I've dined at Bombay Cafe in the past, several times with large parties, and have only good things to say about the food. This ridiculous policy (coupled with the staff's inability to form an intelligent sentence) will keep me from coming back any time soon. I hope you, too, will let the restaurant know that this is unacceptable and that not only is risk inherent in food service but the blatant inability to delight your customers far outweighs the measly monetary loss from a few no-shows on a busy Friday night.



(By the way, we all had a lovely, hefty price tag dinner at Nawab instead.)

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    1. I have heard of this with larger parties, say 15 & up. I also know some restaurants do this on big holidays, mother's day, father's day, easter, I wonder if this was because it is father's day weekend or has become their regular policy. Sounds like they lost a good sale last night.

      1. Holy cow - so what do they do if you don't show - charge your card some sort of no-show penalty and forge your signature? Or do they go on an online shopping spree? That's really poor policy...

        "...SOMETIMES people leave us hanging." is just part and parcel of this business. Like any business, one has to expect to incur some sort of risk; otherwise, it wouldn't be a business - it would be called a sure bet. If this "problem" needed to be addressed, might they instead just add, "I just wanted to mention that because we are so busy on the weekends, reservations are held for 30 minutes after the appointed time," or something to that affect. And if the word, "sometimes," were replaced with, "most of the time," or "all of the time," they would need to reconsider some or all aspects of their own business model, as this would imply that something was definitely wrong with how they were running their restaurant. In other words, no matter how one were to look at this, they have to learn to accept some risk, and not create policies that ultimately come down to being pennywise and pound foolish...

        1. Well, for a place not that large, a table for 8 represents a significant percentage of its total seats, and if you have a reservation at 8pm or so, and "might" be running late, the restaurant does not know whether late translates to a no-show or just a late-show. Now if walk-ins cannot get a table, due to your lateness or no-showness, then they can never recover those lost dollars, and with daylight savings time generally offering one hour less of serving time since most people do not want to eat before at least sundown, it is money out of their pocket, big-time. Parties of 4 or 2 are more easily handled.
          Irony should have it that you chose to go to Nawab, the place where the current owners of Bombay Cafe are from!!!

          1. Actually, it doesn't bother me one bit.

            1. Yeah, you're totally overreacting. I work in a restaurant that seats 27. If 8 people don't show, the likelihood of reseating those tables is slim. That means I'm out, oh, 50 bucks? More? And the resto loses, too. All the cc number means is that if you don't show and don't call, you will be charged. Think about the impact and the number of people who don't bother to call, who just don't show up.
              Just out of curiosity, did you cancel your res at Bombay Cafe, or did you just blow it off?

              6 Replies
              1. re: ctscorp

                Good point...You know, I think the only people who should have a problem with that policy are people who habitually don't show up for reservations, or (even worse) make reservations at a couple places at the same time so they can pick one at the time.

                A reservation is a contract between the business and the customer. The business is reserving a table, and the guests are agreeing to show up at the time for which the reservation is made. Otherwise, what is the point of a restaurant accepting reservations instead of only accepting walk-ins?

                Of course there's some grey area (10-15 minutes late), but I've never heard of any restaurant that charged customers when the customers took the time to call and cancel.

                Just remembered one exception...when I went to French Laundry, they had a $175 cancellation fee.

                1. re: Dave and Stuff

                  So what happens when:

                  They make me wait 45 minutes at the bar for my table
                  They seat me at a terrible table
                  The hostess is so rude that I want to leave
                  I'm not served for twenty minutes...no menus, drinks...nada.

                  So if I want to leave the restaurant then, I guess I'm out of luck?


                  PS. While this sort of thing happens infrequently (maybe once a year, at most), it's memorable when it does...and, btw, the restaurants where the above occured were: The Palm, Gramercy Tavern, Mastros and Valentino!

                  1. re: manku

                    For some reason it irritates me more when doctors require a 24-hour cancellation and even then double and triple book appointments. At least you can have a drink while you're waiting in a restaurant!

                    1. re: manku

                      They don't charge if you show up. You showed up and were not seated, therefore no charge.

                      1. re: manku

                        Then you should choose to patronize other restaurants. I don't remember the last time I had to wait more than 15 minutes for any table that I had a reservation for.

                        Alternatively, you can choose to simply walk into any restaurant whenever you want and wait until they have a table for you.

                        You are asking the restaurant to trust you and your arrival. They trust you as well.

                        1. re: manku

                          Of course not. You showed up, and now, you're welcome to leave. I had a six-top have to leave before their entrees arrived because they had theater tickets and failed to inform me, and they paid for the drinks they had and not for the entrees that were mostly finished in the kitchen (and left me a nine cent tip... because it was somehow my fault that they hadn't communicated...) and we parted ways. No one "won." You make it sound like some ridiculous conspiracy. Restaurateurs are not out to get you. Don't be ridiculous.

                    2. Do you know that Nawab now owns the Bombay Cafe?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: mnosyne

                        No, I like both in their own different ways. Have the menus remained the same? I have mostly had dinner at Nawab and lunched at Bombay Cafe.

                        1. re: Jesdamala

                          Actually, I think that Nawab has improved!

                      2. Plenty of restaurants require a cc# to hold a reservation, it isn't weird at all. Only people who habitually skip out on their reservations would be bothered by this.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: hrhboo

                          Maybe I am wrong but I believe this policy is illegal. They can't actually charge you It's just their way of making sure you cancel reservations that you cannot keep. I was quoted this same policy at Ruth Chris and Flemings when making reservations for Saturday night before Fathers Day and also for brunch at a Hilton for Fathers Day itself. I have no problem with it. I don't know if these places have this policy at non holiday times.

                          1. re: SIMIHOUND

                            They can (and do) charge. When they inform you of their cancellation policy and you agree to it then you are authorizing them to charge the card in the event of a no-show. It's usually a nominal charge, only a fraction of the cost of a meal.

                          2. re: hrhboo

                            I think it makes perfect sense, especially for larger parties.

                          3. My initial reaction was to view the restaurant's credit card reservation policy as normal and reasonable. I've encountered restaurants wanting a credit card to finalize reservations. I usually ask and confirm that I can cancel within a reasonable time prior. This policy did not strike me as unreasonable.

                            Then I read the posts thus far. And I saw the range of responses. And I conclude that there may be some factors that justify the restaurant wanting a credit card:

                            First, large parties. If a restaurant is expecting a group of 7 or more, and especially if they are reserving large tables or areas or putting tables together, they have some reliance on that party showing up. Large parties that expect to be served and eat together impose a demand on the kitchen as well. But not a couple or party of four.

                            Second, prime times. Does everyone want to eat between 7 and 9 or on weekends? If the restaurant is actually turning reservations down because they are jammed, and not taking people walking in the door at those hours on those days, then they are losing money and at the least gumming up the works when people flake out on their reservations.

                            I'll admit I very occasionally make multiple reservations -- for example, when family or friends fly into town so I want an option at 7 right after planned arrival but need an alternative at 9 if the flight or other factors necessitate delay. I am scrupulous about calling to cancel the unused reservation, usually with an explanation, as soon as I know it won't be used. But again, that's for usually two or four patrons at the most.

                            In these days of ID theft, I'm not crazy about having my credit card number written next to my name in an open reservation book that ends up on a maitre-d stand where anybody could copy it. I would be reluctant to give an expiration date or security code that could allow a charge without my consent. But I am sure that having the credit card number increases the restaurant's odds of getting a cancellation call or a cell call to say they are running late.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: nosh

                              I work in a retail store that offers evening classes that seat only 30. A couple of years ago we began noticing that we were getting alot of no shows, one class in particular had a waiting list of 20 people and a party of 14 did not show. Not only did we loose money by having extra staff and tons of food we had 20 people that could have attended that did not get the chance....it's a bummer. We started taking credit cards to hold the reservation and the problem almost never happens anymore. We also call three days in advance to remind/confirm the reservation works great for everyone. At the end of the night the reservation sheet is shreaded along with the credit card info.

                              1. re: bubbles4me

                                Totally agree. I am a physical therapist...I have worked at some clinics without a no-show policy, and despite excellent care, we sometimes get a 50% no-show rate. Not only is this unfair to the practitioner, but its also unfair to the other patients who could have had those spots.

                                And then we DO have to resort to double-booking...why....because frankly, we couldn't afford to keep our doors open otherwise.

                                So in the health profession, you need to either have a no-show fee or double-book.
                                As far as restaurants go, I think it should be up to the individual restaurant to decide. If the police really upsets people, their business will decline and they will change the policy.

                                But think about it like this...when only sincere people make reservations...there are more reservations available to such people. You will have an easier time getting the spot that you want.

                            2. I have run across this policy in San Francisco.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: running pig

                                I think it is totally fair and have no problem with it. Why should they suffer the consequences of a table for 12 going empty if some selfish rude party doesn't show?
                                I have never not shown up without calling at least two hours in advance. Were it a large party I've never canceled later than three days in advance.

                                As to ID theft: for a price, ALL your info is easily gotten on the Internets! So too late for protecting that...

                                And yes it's totally legal if they explain the policy to you and you agree. Smart tech savvy places should record (with permission) the agreement.

                                1. re: Leonardo

                                  Just to be nosy, how much was the "no show" fee?

                              2. I don't think there is anything unreasonable about securing a reservation with a CC. All you have to do is show up on time, or call and cancel, and there is no charge, right? So what's the problem?