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Dec 19, 2007 01:11 PM

Creative way to deal with no-call/no-shows

From a place my wife and I are fond of in San Francisco called Chenery Park; I was reading their website because I was surprised when I went onto Opentable to make a reservation for New Years Eve to find that they were requesting a credit card to hold the reservation. (We eat there a couple of times a month and they don't normally take credit cards to hold the reservation.)

On their website is this note:
Credit Card needed for all New Years Eve Reservations
24 hour Cancellation policy-
A no-call, no show results in $25 per person charge to your credit card, given in the form of a Chenery Park gift certificate to be mailed to you.

I think this is a great way to handle the situation. Seems like an idea that strikes something of a balance between the needs of the customer and the restaurant.

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  1. I like it! It really strikes me as fair to both parties. Especially the gift certificate part - I've heard of restaurants who will charge your credit card xxx amount for no-shows, and that's the end of it. Now the customer will still have that certificate available to use another time. And the resto doesn't get screwed with empty tables on a huge night.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Catskillgirl

      More and more places are doing this. I agree with it completely. So many people call around like 6 different places and make reservations and then decide at the last minute where they want to go and then call the other 5 and cancel an hour or two before, it's just not fair.

        1. re: invinotheresverde

          >>...or don't cancel at all.


          Since a credit card would still be required to which to charge the 'certificate', I wouldn't deal with such a restaurant.

          1. re: dolores

            Dolores, is that because you have a personal rule about not making reservations of any kind that require a credit card? (I'm not attempting snark here, the question is meant literally.)

    2. With all the extremely fraught, us v. them, customer/restaurant relations we read in these boards, this is really a refreshing bit of civility. Transparency is a good thing. What a great thought on the part of the restaurant.

      But I wonder: since the no-show customer really can't lose, could this be exploited? I agree with ccb on the nice balance, but sometimes human nature likes to tip that balance. Curious to know if it works as well as it would seem to at first glance.

      10 Replies
      1. re: cayjohan

        i can't imagine that there would be a great opportunity for this to be exploited on the customer side. it does strike a balance for the no-cancels/no-shows but i can imagine that the gift certificate is likely to not include the costs of beverages and gratuity (even potentially tax) which would then encourage you to spend more money at the restaurant. this is fairly typical of most certificates.

        so in the end, $25 won't cover "extras" for one and $25 is far too little for two... more money spent at the resto! or money simply lost if you forget about the thing all together.

        1. re: pinstripeprincess

          But only if you didn't call to cancel and then didn't show up at all.

          1. re: ccbweb

            right... so then you show up and you pay full price and they get what they bargained for.

            i don't see how in this case that it can be exploited unless you were intent on trying to ruin the restaurant. like making a reservation for half the place and not showing up at all and then taking in the $100s in certificates while they've got an empty house.

            my point is that no customer is getting something for nothing here. they paid for their certificate and will likely have to pay even more when they try to use it. if they dont' cancel, well goign to that NYE party will probably cost an arm and a leg anyway! everything here (toronto) costs a minimum of $40 to get into and all you get with that is maybe a glass of champagne and entrance.

            1. re: pinstripeprincess

              Since the details are available, it's a restaurant doing a NYE dinner. $75 per person for four courses. The place is normally an $20 per entree place and my wife and I usually spend about $100 before tip for the both of us for 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, 2 cocktails, one dessert....more if we get wine.

              And I certainly wasn't presenting this as a customer getting something for nothing...nor should one. I thought that this was a better thing for both customer and restaurant than just charging the $25 for the no show. In that case, everyone loses out (the customer loses the $25 per person and the restaurant doesn't get the revenue from the reserved table)....this way, everyone loses out less and the customer, if they go to the restaurant another time with their gift certificate and enjoy themselves, loses nothing at all.

              1. re: ccbweb

                as i usually see on the non-location specific postings... i think we're getting caught up in the wrong conversation.

                i totally agree with you, i was only responding to cayjohans remark regarding if this situation could be exploited by the customer. and my personal opinion is no. it's probably the fairest way to deal with anything like this that i've seen in a long time.

                and to be honest, maybe i shouldnt' have responded because i was confused at how your response to me actually related to what i meant.

                1. re: pinstripeprincess


                  Let jfood give an example and see if you think this is exploitation. Since jfood posted a different conclusion to the situation below he is just trying to be helpful.

                  Assume you have four restos that you really like, always go to, but cannot decide on which one for NYE. You make a reso at each and each has the 25/25 policy. At 6PM on NYE you decide which of the four you will go to and do not call theother three. So now you have a great time at the winner, pay and have 3 gift certificates, each for $25 that you paid for. Knowing that you will probably go to each of these, irrespective of the certificate since you liked the resto, you are only out the time value of money from the date that you pay for the certificate til the time you use them. The three restos you did not go to, on the other hand, each had an empty seat. If you also assume that the resto earns more than $25 per head on NYE, then the resto is in a worse position while you are basically in the same.

                  Is that exploitation? Could be, could not be, depending on your point of view.

                  Hope that helps.

                  1. re: jfood

                    I agree with your math and was wondering the same things. The resto is still "out" a seat on NYE, but the no-show customer is only out $25 if they never plan to eat at that resto again. While that may be the case, i.e., you make NYE plans at a place that you might not normally frequent, most people I know stick to a known resto that they would plan to visit at some point in the next year rather than try something new. I don't see how this benefits the resto at all. Frankly, I really do understand simply charging the customer for a no-show, but in that case the resto surely loses a customer for any repeat business. I guess they are trying to make their point gently and hope to get some future business.

                    BTW -- Is making multiple reservations a common practice? I've never done it and I can't really understand why you might want to.

                    1. re: jfood

                      i did not at all discount this possibility hence i wrote:

                      "like making a reservation for half the place and not showing up at all and then taking in the $100s in certificates while they've got an empty house."

                      although it did reference a single restaurant only. so yes, some form of exploitation does seem to be possible. i'm just also saying that using a gift certificate doesn't mean that your meal is covered and the restaurant will likely recoup a bit from the loss.

                      but also from my own experience... i've had many of my 20something friends decide to go to one of these things last minute and shelling out lots of $$$ for practically nothing. so depending on locale restaurant (ie. not remote), i'm pretty sure they can recoup most of their loss on the actual night.

                      1. re: pinstripeprincess

                        thanks psp.

                        the jfoods have never and will never go to the late seating at these places. two reasons, one the 3x normal cost and second, do not want to be on the road at amateur hour.

            2. re: pinstripeprincess

              I guess my point was that the customer who say, makes a back-up reservation or just flippantly decides not to honor the reservation doesn't stand to lose anything. $25 certificate for a $25 cc charge - customer is not out anything, but the restaurant loses (according to ccbweb's reportage on per head pricing) $50 for that no-show. I may be totally in the dark here, but I can't imagine there are many walk-ins on NYE for this level of event, so it's not just turning the table to the next in line.

              I continue to like the transparency of stating the policy, and I agree with someone downthread who mentioned those who cancel after the 24 hour period because of some unforeseen difficulty like a sick child. Things happen. But people being human are not often so noble as to worry about something like a reservation (implied contract) if there's nothing to lose. That's why I think of the exploitation factor.

          2. Jfood thinks this way too nice on the resto's part. On NYE there should be extra special attention on the part of the custo to show or cancel. Jfood was waiting to read there would be a $50 no-show fee with a $25 gift card.

            Anyone who makes a NYE reso and does not cancel or show should have some form of penalty.

            Hat's off to the resto on this one, they are being overly generous.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jfood


              The restaurant is bending over backwards just to keep the customer happy -- when it is the responsibility of the customer to honour the reservation that they make in the first place.

              Here's a novel idea: if unsure whether one can make a reservation, just do not make a reservation at all. Risk not getting a table on that particular night: it's not the end of the world.

              Restaurants are well within their prerogative to charge credit card for no-shows/last-minute cancellations. It is not an unfair policy. Hotels do it; function rooms do it; rental car companies do it.

              If I have no intention of not honouring my reservation, why would I be personally offended at being asked my credit card to hold the reservation? It is a minor inconvenience for sure, but I'd rather pay the price of a minor inconvenience than risk other people's livelihoods.

            2. I think this works out great for patrons who are not trying to be rude or inconsiderate, but genuinely have to cancel after the 24 hour mark. You know, a kid gets sick, the babysitter cancels, the car breaks down...But it's enough to discourage people from casually making a reservation as a back-up or deciding to go instead to a party at the last minute.

              1. I like that kind of policy. But I tend to support policies like this. You see doctor or dentist offices now that charge you a fee if you don't cancel an appointment within X window.

                In those cases, the doctor can probably still slide a walk in into the slot and still not lose any revenue. Just like a restaurant can. But it's not always guaranteed and by taking up that slot originally, they had to turn someone else away.

                It's human nature to just worry about yourself. If there's a financial penalty involved, it's funny how responsible people are all of a sudden to notify other parties instead of simply no-showing.