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Jul 13, 2013 12:55 AM

Americans are getting a bad reputation at Provencal restaurants

Yesterday I made a reservation for clients at my favorite restaurant. The owner (who I know well) asked me to PLEASE make sure that the clients call to cancel if they decide not to come. She said that now, more than previously, Americans are making reservations at restaurants in Provence, but then not calling to cancel and not showing up.

Just the day before a colleague told me that she had made reservations for 8 at three different restaurants in the St Remy area. The people never showed at any of the restaurants. All three restaurants called to tell her about the no-shows, and also said that they had held the tables (some for 2 hours) as a favor to her. Restaurants here are not large so one table of 8 that doesn't show can make a difference, especially in summer when places make most of their money.

Please ask your friends and family who are coming to France to cancel reservations when they change their minds about going.

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  1. No-shows are despicable.
    In my experience, when I call to cancel, even on the same day, the restaurants are always exceedingly grateful, thanking me warmly for canceling.
    Just curious, how do these restaurateurs, and you, know that the no-shows in Provence are Americans? I have also been told that the no-shows in the Basque country are strictly Newzealanders, while the offenders in Brittany are all those damned Bougainville natives.
    And when you wrote "Please ask your friends and family who [whatever]", would you like to clarify the second person? I have already issued stern warnings to MY family and friends in 3 continents. They cry innocent, but I know better. :)

    3 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      I don't mind leaving credit card details. But you can see why some (US) restaurants get people to pre-pay (like a theatre ticket). Surprised the reservations for eight didn't ask for a card.

      1. re: Parigi

        Hi, to reply to Parigi:

        I agree, restaurants are always grateful when one calls to cancel.

        How do I know the offenders are Americans? The person who made the reservations for the 3 nights of 8 people knew the people. For the restaurant that told me, they have tons of American guests, but I am not sure how they knew. Could be the person who made the reservation told them, could be the accent was recognized. I am sure that this information is shared among restaurants here. But I'll ask the next time I go.

        There are tons of Americans around, more than usual I think. The only English accent I hear around St Remy is American and there are lots of Americans there. (I work there part time.)

        Your question:""Please ask your friends and family who [whatever]", would you like to clarify the second person?"

        It is a general comment to anyone who reads this site and is certainly not directed at anyone specific. I'm sure that many people on Chowhound (like me) send lots of people to restaurants in Provence. Just a reminder since many of us would never think that people would make a reservation and then not cancel if they decide not to go.

        1. re: Parigi

          Like Parigi, I have had the experience of a restaurant or a hotel thanking me profusely for calling to cancel. On a couple of occasions, when I said something (in French) like "well, it's just normal," they said it wasn't normal at all. However, it was the French they complained about. They actually said that French people rarely called but Americans were much better about it.

          I have had hoteliers tell me they could never ask for credit cards in advance from French people, although that seems to be changing a bit.

        2. As an American who would never, ever do this, I'm completely embarrassed by any of my countrymen who would. I agree that these places should start asking for credit card information, especially for such large groups.

          6 Replies
          1. re: LulusMom

            I think many people would be reluctant to give their credit card number (imagine the big reservation book you see lying unguarded by the phone in every restaurant, and now imagine everyone's credit card info scrawled into it, and hundreds of people walking by all day long…)

            And anyway, I'm not sure the restaurant could actually do anything with your cc info. Can they just call the company and say, hey we have this cc number, can you charge them 50 euros and give it to us? I am aware of the concept of no-show penalties, but I've only seen them in France in the context of on-line reservations, where you have to explicitly agree to the booking/cancellation/no-show conditions.

            Restaurants in France do sometimes ask for a contact number, and for especially large parties or expensive tables, I imagine that some of them require you to call again x amount of time before the reservation to confirm.

            1. re: DeppityDawg

              In fact in Paris last month I was asked to call and confirm on 2 of the 3 restaurants I went to. And this seems totally reasonable. It makes me wonder why a restaurant taking a reservation for a table of 8 didn't ask for a contact number, now that you mention it. Seems a simple enough way of dealing with this problem.

              1. re: LulusMom

                Indeed, restaurants often do call me to confirm, about a day before the meal. Most recently Abri and Dans Les Landes did just that.
                I just didn't know they had guessed I was American and hence suspect. :)

                1. re: LulusMom

                  One reason the restaurants that took the 3 reservations for 8 is because the reservation was made by a tour planner whom the restaurant knows.

                  I am usually asked for a phone number in Provence but NEVER a credit card. I always call to confirm if I made the reservation a week or more before I go, but mostly to make sure that the restaurant still has the reservation. I speak good French but I do have an accent so I want to make sure I was correctly understood.

                2. re: DeppityDawg

                  DD - probably as secure as your credit card details for a reservation in a small hotel in France and you need to give those details to reserve a room.

                  I wonder if the restaurant actually needs to charge a card for it to be an incentive to to the right thing and cancel. If you know they have your details; are not familiar with the fine details of French credit card laws; and believe they may charge you - It could help someone remember their manners.

                  I personally find it appalling that people don't cancel, but I find it even more appalling that people will make multiple reservations on the same night so they can choose on a whim what they wish to eat.

                  Just in the process of finalising a trip to France and Spain and I am surprised by how few places ask for card details. In many of the countries I visit it has become quite standard to ask for a card when booking.

                  1. re: PhilD

                    There are security issues at hotels, too, but in general the reservation book is behind a counter with someone watching. So I feel less nervous about that, although I do almost all my bookings on-line, where the security issues are different. That said, my most recent booking was at a small hotel in Paris that did not want my card number when I reserved over the phone.

              2. It is Saturday night here in Sonoma County in Northern California and I was just talking to our front of the house staff about 3 tables that made reservations but did not show for their reservations tonight.

                Unfortunately no-shows are a problem for every restaurant both in Provence and in the US. We require credit cards for groups of 6 or more on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

                In California, we can't just charge a credit card for not showing up for a reservation. So what we and other restaurants do, is charge a fee per guest and then we send them a Gift Card for the amount of the charge so they are getting something of value for the charge.

                I wonder if some of the problem in Provence is that some of the travelers to the area do not have cell phones that work in France which would be the case for anyone who has a contract with Sprint and a couple of others, and if they are out away from where they are lodging, may not be able to call.

                I am trying to give the benefit of the doubt to people in hopes that these people are not just blowing off their reservation.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Pammel

                  The gift card thing is brilliant. You do get their phone numbers, though, don't you? Do you call to see if the party is showing up?

                  1. re: Pammel

                    I can see why some places sell tickets like Alinea. You pre-pay for the meal if you don't show its like no showing for a concert. If you want to rearrange you sell the ticket.

                    1. re: PhilD

                      I had one small French hotel near the Camargue ask me to send a deposit check to reserve a room far in advance for a holiday weekend (Pentecost). I think that was because they didn't think they could charge a credit card for a no-show. I don't know if that is actually the law in France.

                      I ended up having to cancel my reservation. I did so several weeks ahead. They promptly sent me a refund check.

                      On the other hand, a much smaller and fancier hotel, part of the tiny restaurant Les Tellines near Arles, took both my room and dinner reservations for a Friday night without a deposit or card.

                      1. re: RandyB

                        In Paris a couple of months back my hotel made me pay for the full three nights in advance, letting me know that if I cancelled (no matter how far in advance) they would still keep one night of the payment.