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Restaurant cancelling a reservation

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I recently had an upscale restaurant cancel my reservation because of heavy snow and the fact that many of the other customers cancelled their reservations, so they decided to close shop for the evening. It was a special occasion dinner for us, and we made the reservation in advance and fully intended to go (after confirming 2 times with them). I did not receive their message until close to the time of our reservation, I had to scramble to find another similarly upscale place for our event. That was utterly disappointing and I called and left a message with them to say this was disappointing for us because it was a special event, and that we hope they can call us back since we still would like to attend in the future. Sigh. Does this happen? I suppose for their bottom line it makes sense, but still, so disappointing.

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  1. "Does this happen?"

    Well it happened to you so obviously it does!

    I'm not really sure what your question is, you said there was heavy snow......it's an act of God...not much you can do about that. What if the Chef or half the kitchen staff couldn't make it in? What if their deliveries couldn't or didn't make it and they were low or out of fresh produce.....

    Trust me NO restaurant want's to close especially if they have many reservations.....but for whatever reason they had to. At least they were courteous enough to call you and not just let you show up to a closed establishment.

    1. Do people sometimes get disappointed by bad weather? Yes.

      I respect a business that cares about its workers enough to not make them trek in (and home) if conditions are dangerous.

      1. You're complaining that a restaurant cancelled your reservation due to a heavy snow storm? In a winter of snow storms unlike any we have seen? Where people had to sleep in their cars on the highway because they could not make it home? Where there were multiple horrible car pileups due to these storms? And you're complaining that you had to postpone celebrating a special occasion?
        Sorry, but I do not feel for you or think you have a valid point.

        1. I'm sorry that happened, I would have been incredibly disappointed too. Mother Nature can be a bear sometimes.

          RE: does this happen? Around here, all the time. I once had reservations at a resort restaurant but the canyon was closed due to an avalanche. Luckily no one was hurt.

          1. Also, does "we hope they can call us back" mean you are expecting something for free?

            1. Hi all,

              Thanks for your replies. I guess I was just wanting to vent. Good to hear some gut responses from others and some other perspectives. I wasn't angry or expecting some compensation, just very disappointed as I said. Their message on the phone indicated to me that it was a business decision, not one related to safety of their staff going to work (their reason being because many other customers cancelled and they expected no business, they actually said that). There was snow, but other people were going to work, if that puts the situation in context.

              24 Replies
              1. re: ukers

                If I were in your shoes...disappointed or not, the first thing that would come to my mind is their concern for safety, rather than sales or profit....for you and their staff. I think you should appreciate the mere fact that had the presence of mind and courtesy to call you at all.

                In New Jersey. the recent storms created a State of Emergency and most all businesses closed.

                1. re: ukers

                  Your original post said heavy snow. Personally, the wife and I aren't tied to dates on a calendar. Valentine's can be a week before or after. Working in retail, we usually do Thanksgiving the second Saturday after. We make it a special day even if it doesn't match up exactly to the day on the calendar, and if something comes up, we'll do it another day.

                  1. re: ukers

                    If it's obvious that they closed due to a "business decision" rather than safety, I think you are entitled to a very sincere apology, and some tangible perk to retain your future business and good will.

                    1. re: josephnl

                      I have to agree with this.

                      A couple of years ago the same thing happened here with a celebration I'd planned at a very high end venue.
                      It was rain, believe it or not, that made them decide to close the establishment.
                      They called back a couple of days later and asked if I could reschedule on a day that suited me.
                      It was a very good business move on their part.

                      1. re: josephnl

                        Do you think in other businesses that cancel reservations for whatever reasons, emergencies or not, should they provide free or tangible perks as well?

                        1. re: fourunder

                          Nobody's 'entitled' to anything in this lifetime…perhaps decent roads to drive on and that's about it.

                          It surely did make me want to come back to an establishment that seemed to care about my business.
                          I've received notes (tangible) in the mail as a courtesy…I didn't ask for them, didn't expect them and certainly didn't feel entitled to them…

                          But, c'mon…it's nice to feel appreciated, isn't it?

                          1. re: latindancer

                            perhaps decent roads to drive on and that's about it.

                            You won't like NJ...but you agreed with josephnl....about being entitled to an apology and tangible perks.

                            1. re: fourunder

                              I'm not entitled to anything.
                              Including an apology.
                              Oh, and yes, we ALL are entitled to decent roads…it's where our dollars go.
                              You've misread me.

                              1. re: latindancer

                                josephnl about 1 hour ago

                                If it's obvious that they closed due to a "business decision" rather than safety, I think you are entitled to a very sincere apology, and some tangible perk to retain your future business and good will.

                                latindancer 43 minutes ago

                                I have to agree with this.

                                Your response....and you even hit the recommend feature.

                                1. re: fourunder

                                  I tend to look at the overall post and base my opinion on that.
                                  A business that cancels a reservation and never calls, sends a note, etc., to see if the person's still interested stands the chance of losing that client altogether. It's just not a great business practice, in my opinion and I tend to be attracted to people who know how to run a business.
                                  Do I think the client is 'entitled' to anything? No.
                                  Personally, I liked the overall message josephni posted.
                                  The message was one of basic courtesy and good business.
                                  I know businesses were upside down during this winter's weather. I was affected by it on the west coast when I sat for more than an hour on the phone waiting to talk to a business because the east coast was slammed and there was a backup of calls. Was I entitled to better business practice? No, but I certainly liked it when there was an apology for having to sit there and wait for, what seemed iike, an eternity.
                                  Shit happens, we all know that.
                                  But, really, what does it take for some shmo to sit behind a desk and say 'sorry for the inconvenience'…
                                  Don't we all like a little consideration now and then?

                                  1. re: latindancer

                                    but the business did call...and with due respect to the OP, although she did not note or indicate, I'd be willing to guess and assume the restaurant did offer regrets and by starting off with, or something similar to.... *We are sorry to say, or inform you we will be cancelling all reservations tonight due to the weather".

                                    j, is making a totally unsupported conclusion on the motives of the restaurant. I find that amusing that he feels there should be compensation, even if it were for good will only.....coming from someone who I suspect is from a profession notorious for overbooking appointments and if making a cancellation to clients or patients on occasion due to necessity....and probably does not offer free advice or any tangible perks as good will

                                    1. re: fourunder

                                      fourunder...i really don't understand your post. I thought that I made it clear that the apologies and possible perks were totally dependent upon why the restaurant closed. Regardless of the reason a restaurant cancels a previously made reservation, a sincere apology is appropriate. If the restaurant closed because of safety concerns re staff or even customers traveling to the restaurant, nothing further is appropriate. But...if the restaurant closed strictly because of a business decision (they had too many cancellations), then I think they owe their disappointed customers not only an apology, but something more tangible.

                                      1. re: josephnl

                                        There was heavy snow, so there's no reason to suppose they cancelled to save a few bucks, and how exactly would they do so anyway? They still have to pay staff because some are salaried and how exactly do they save money by not bringing in sales?...they made a business decision to close.....you could make up a hundred reasons why....but you could not say they did not do so for safety concerns and accept that fact given the conditions outlined in the OP's very first sentence. Instead you give alternate hypothetical.. They called and left a message notifying cancellations, and it's fair to believe they did so with regrets. After all, this is an upscale restaurant and you would tend to think they were more polished and refined....There was no reason to suppose a different reason for the closing. They owe nothing more...no further apology or tangible perk, however if brought to their attention of the cancellation, what makes you think they would not offer regrets again. Granted, Good customers get perks.. The OP clearly states she doesn't expect or want anything other than a call back and possibly go on another date in the future. She does not indicate if that's to reschedule the special event or just have a enjoyable night. This notion of expecting perks makes for bad customers and someone I would not want as one. They could spew all the bad mouth resentment they wanted to and reasonable mind would understand it was natural event that caused the problem...not somebody's pocket.

                                        The OP does not indicate where she resides and where this storm was, so there are facts unknown and speculating does not help....but as I mentioned above, here in NJ snow emergencies were declared and businesses had to close. Restaurants don't generally close on a whim....but due to conditions.

                                        1. re: fourunder

                                          OP appears to live in Toronto based on posting history -- so certainly a locale that is familiar with dealing with snow (unlike, say, Atlanta). And, I do not believe that Toronto had any significantly huge snowfalls, recently, unlike NJ and other points in the northeastern US. In her (his?) second post on this thread, it's plainly said: "There was snow, but other people were going to work, if that puts the situation in context." So, it does not sound as though the cancellation was based upon the snow being of such crippling levels that it was impossible for the restaurant to provide dinner.

                                          In such situations, while the restaurant may not "owe" the cancelled customer any perk or accommodation, it's just good business sense to provide one, just as a well-run restaurant will often provide some sort of comp when other things go awry, whether or not it's strictly "owed."

                                          1. re: masha

                                            Other people were going to work is pretty vague. Heavy snow is not. Presumably, people were going to work during the day. The restaurant decided to close for evening service....presumably all those workers went home as well. I don't think the OP is anything more than disappointed. It's others that think the OP is owed something that I disagree with. Where this notion comes from that Restaurants need to comp from closing is silly, as no other business would do so. They probably already gave regrets...so anyone thinking they are owed another apology is just being self important....expecting comp is entitlement, or believing a comp should be given is also position of entitlement. I think not offering a comp is good business sense, just as offering one would be, given the circumstances of the days events provided from the OP. Do the customers that feel a comp is warranted believe they owe apologies or a reasons for cancelling dinner reservations, or worse for not showing up?

                                            In this particular case, the restaurant notified the patron ...end of story. That's what I and others have opined and we would move on.

                                            1. re: fourunder

                                              {{thud...thud...thud...thud.......hands Four in ice pack}} Here bro stop pounding your head against the wall.

                                            2. re: masha


                                              this is no reflection on your comments per se, only using your mention of good business sense and some of the others who think comps are necessary to keep customers happy. You have not deemed them necessary, only that they should be considered, which I would agree depending on the situation.

                                              I was in business with a brother. Every time one of his friends came in, he would emphatically tell me they were millionaires and I should make sure I take care of them. He always bought them the first drink and offered them free appetizers. They never bought any desserts, and never ordered another cocktail, after dinner drink or any bottles of wine, however, they did accept them for free whenever(wine) was offered. Other times, these millionaires also came to the restaurant and asked if my brother was in. When I told them *no*, they turned around and walked out.

                                              People who look for freebies are not customers...my opinion is they're deadbeats.

                                              For the record, I do not put the OP in that category.

                                              1. re: masha

                                                masha, they had a snowfall 2 days ago (Wednesday night) with bad travel conditions.


                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                  Thanks, Linda. I am in Chicago and we got the same storm about 12 hours earlier. It was a mess mainly because it was Eastern style snow -- much heavier & wetter than what we've been getting most of this year (which has been light & powdery). But, I assume Toronto is a lot like Chicago -- yes, flights get cancelled, but they've got lots of snow removal equipment and drivers experienced in driving in snow. Life goes on here; our local HS has not cancelled school for snow in over 60 years -- this years' 2 days of cancellations were only because of the double-digit subzero temperatures, not snow accumulation. I just took the OP at his/her word that the storm was not crippling. If it was, I stand corrected.

                                        2. re: latindancer

                                          Here's the thing…

                                          I don't feel a bit of empathy for a business that goes under…and that means ANY business.
                                          There are far too many things a business can do to keep it afloat, even in the most dire of times.
                                          I've heard/read/experienced too many excuses and it seems to me not enough drive to keep potential clients happy.

                                          1. re: latindancer

                                            "I don't feel a bit of empathy for a business that goes under…and that means ANY business.
                                            There are far too many things a business can do to keep it afloat, even in the most dire of times."

                                            latindancer, I enjoy your posts here, and this one is surprising. In most cases a business has to be able to AFFORD the strategies that would get them through hard times. If you're losing money by the bucket-full, working the business alone and without compensation, and risk bankruptcy if you don't close or sell............. I'm not saying the business deserves anyone's sympathy (ie- compassion), but "empathy" is defined as "the feeling that you UNDERSTAND and share another person's experiences and emotions". Not saying everyone tries hard enough or smart enough, but that's a pretty cold position to take in "ANY" (meaning ALL?) situations.

                                            Oh, and YES.......... I HAVE been there.

                                            BTW, responding to the OP, had I been the owner I would have gone out of my way to offer some kind of appropriate 'compensation', no matter how small. Then, again, some might say that would be the kind of thing that I couldn't afford if I also couldn't afford to leave the business open during a snow storm.

                                2. re: fourunder

                                  Yes, fourunder!! Having been a proprietor myself, the bottom line is treating customers as you would want to be treated yourself. Yes, if I disappoint a client/customer for whatever reason, I would do my best to both verbally apologize, and if there is some tangible perk that might be appropriate, I would not hesitate to extend it.

                                  1. re: fourunder

                                    I agree. No perks. Shit happens.
                                    I closed my business due to snow once this year. I couldn't notify all the clients. Many other businesses did as well.
                                    Most people understand that sudden weather problems create a situation that calls for a sudden decision.

                                    Oh well. Sometimes grown ups just have to deal with changes that don't go in their favor, things get delayed, it becomes a pain...yada,yada. I didn't apologize. It was a good decision for my staff and my business overall.

                                    1. re: sedimental

                                      I agree. It really comes down to the person, doesn't it? I truly put myself in the OP's situation before I answered up above. I honestly don't think my husband or I would even flinch if we got a call like this from a restaurant. We woud respect and understand the decision, make new plans and move on. We've been in similar situations and handled them like this. I realize we are all different and therefore many people don't feel the same way. While I respect their feelings, I don't agree with them.

                              2. I think that there are two possible scenarios here:
                                1) The snowstorm was so heavy that either the restaurant staff couldn't make it in, or it would have been unsafe for them to do so. In this instance, it is perfectly logical and proper for the restaurant to cancel their reservations and shut down.
                                2) The snowstorm wasn't that bad, but nevertheless several of the reservations cancelled just because folks didn't want to go out in the inclement weather. Although the staff could safely make it in, because the restaurant thought that the night might not be sufficiently profitable they decided to cancel their reservations and close for the night. In this instance, I'm not so sure that the restaurant was correct in disappointing their customers who had planned to come in and were not afraid of braving the weather. If this scenario is what actually occurred, I'd think that at least the management should have apologized to the customers who had reserved, and likely offer them some perk the next time they come in (perhaps a gift credit, a bottle of wine, etc.)

                                1. Does a restaurant close because of circumstances beyond its control? Well, yes it does.

                                  Happened to us a couple of years ago. Michelin starred place that also had a few bedrooms - we were staying there overnight as it was a two hour drive. They had a water pipe burst and the kitchen flooded. Luckily they rang early morning to cancel - lucky because we just about to leave home to do some touristing during the day before dinner. Shit happens.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Harters

                                    Happened to us last year. We were staying in Sandwich for the weekend and had booked Eddie Gilberts in Ramsgate (thanks to your rec, couldn't resist eel soldiers) and confirmed the booking on the Thursday. Set off from Sandwich on Saturday afternoon, had to get a train and then bus replacement service to Ramsgate. Arrived in the pouring rain spotted the restaurant but didn't go up to it, as it “may spoil things”. Got soaked on the sea front and spent a couple of hours in a ropey pub. Get to the restaurant to find a notice stating it had ceased trading on the Friday.
                                    I was mightily pissed off but found out from our cab driver who took us back to Sandwich that the founder had died 2 months earlier and his brother had tried to keep the business afloat. Felt bad at being annoyed about it in the grand scheme of things

                                    1. re: Paprikaboy

                                      The soaked on the sea front and ropey pub part sounds awesome though!

                                  2. I know this isn't about food, but I thought I would related it is about a canceled reservation:

                                    I just heard from my mother about her walking partner and husband being escorted of a half full plane because the airline was worried the plane might be redirected due to bad weather, so they wanted to add more fuel. When nobody volunteered to leave (see: half full plane) this couple, weighing probably 250 between the two of them and another equally slight lady were escorted off, with threatening comments if they refused.

                                    All kinds of crazy stuff happens these days. And I totally trust the source, not making this up. They used a flight tracker app, the plane was not diverted

                                    1. Yes, people do listen to authorities when they say "if you don't HAVE to be out, don't be out".
                                      It's dangerous.
                                      Snow treatment and removal vehicles need access to the roads.
                                      Emergency vehicles need access to the roads.

                                      If this discombobulated your life, then you need to reassess your priorities.
                                      I would have said "Oh, well, let's eat in, light some candles, put on some music and make the best of it!"

                                      It's all in what you do to life, not what life does to you.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: monavano

                                        Thanks for posting this.

                                        It was a long, {{{cold}}}, snowy winter.
                                        My SO is a native of Chicago and even he has suffered some "cabin fever" this year.

                                        We were under "Travel Warnings" (State issued) several times. Folks can actually be ticketed for non-essential(i.e. non-emergency) car travel.

                                        I also have to think it would be awful to go out to dinner...only to find that a waiter, or the cook. or a fellow diner had suffered weather-related injury or death after the experience.

                                        Loved your "light some candles" tip.
                                        I so agree.

                                        When Mother Nature is raging, stay home!
                                        Light a fire.
                                        Bake bread.
                                        Make soup.
                                        Open a bottle of great wine.
                                        Roll up the rugs and push back the furniture and dance.
                                        (???---this is a PG website)

                                        Staying home doesn't have to be some sort of punishment.

                                        "It's all in what you do to life, not what life does to you."

                                        Love that.

                                      2. I read a number of the replies that seemed to assume you were looking for some kind of perk or consideration because the reservation was cancelled suddenly. I did not read that into your OP at all. It sounds to me like you were just looking for someone from the establishment to call you back, apologize for the inconvenience and perhaps set up a reservation for another time.

                                        I live in Philly, and we have had a particularly nasty winter. Snows, record cold, power outages, and a number of instances where the mayor of the city has called "snow emergencies", asking that all non-essential traffic stay off the streets. Many here in the city depend on public transportation to get to work. I can see a restaurant closing if there is such an emergency or if their staff could not get there. It happens. I can appreciate your disappointment, but I have also learned that the world does not revolve around one individual. As Forrest Gump said: "S@*t happens". Get over it.

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: PattiCakes

                                          Who put a bullseye over Philly this year?!
                                          I'm from Philly, and i remember the winters of "93 & "94 (or 92??).
                                          If you didn't have a good reason to be on the road, you'd be cited, ticketed or arrested.
                                          So, your dinner got canceled. People DIE traveling in bad weather.

                                          1. re: monavano

                                            A bit off topic but anyway:
                                            A couple of years back a family member phoned a fancy newly opened Dim Sum (Yum Cha) restaurant and made reservations for ten of us. Sunday came and we all met at the restaurant at noon. BIG line-up! Family member and I made our way past the line-up and got to the front of the line of people without reservations. Family member says to person directing which people went to which tables. "We have a reservation for ten at twelve o'clock." Response: "No reservations! Go to back of line".
                                            The place closed down last year. One of the kitchen staff chased another kitchen staff threw the busy front of house brandishing a large clever we heard.

                                            1. re: Puffin3

                                              "The place closed down last year. One of the kitchen staff chased another kitchen staff threw the busy front of house brandishing a large clever we heard."

                                              That old saw has been around since the 1960s in my experience. Every Chinese restaurant of my youth had this "really" happen! lol

                                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                                Invariably that scenario happens in Chinese restaurants which serve monkey brains from the sawed-open skull of a live monkey.

                                                1. re: Tripeler

                                                  Ahhhh memories of the 80's cult movie Faces of Death. The scene of the restaurant serving the live monkey brains was in fact faked. The "brains" were cauliflower soaked in a red food color of some kind, if memory serves me correctly.

                                                  1. re: jrvedivici

                                                    Yeah, the monkey brains thing is a prime example of urban myths, along with crazed Chinese cooks going on a cleaver rampage.

                                                    1. re: Tripeler

                                                      Except for that one time I walked into a Pho restaurant with two friends and we found ourselves too close to a man brandishing a large knife and screaming at everyone. Luckily our entrance diverted his attention long enough for a very brave man to tackle him and two others to overpower him. Wow!!!!

                                                      1. re: Midlife

                                                        When I was much younger a group of us were at a diner late Halloween night. A fight broke out and a few of us jumped in to calm things down. A guy dressed up as an old time cowboy sheriff had a couple guys outside talking to them, calming them down. Every sat back down as things seemed to be calming down when one of the friends of the guys outside with the sheriff took exception to how the "sheriff" was treating his friends. I watched him as he grabbed a steak knife and ran towards the doors. I jumped up ran towards him and with my old football instincts kicking in, lowered my head, tucked my shoulder into his side and drove him into the ground. (I'm 6'3 250lbs at the time). He dropped the knife, lost his breath, and I held him till the police arrived.

                                                        Turned out the sheriff was a real cop dressed like that for Halloween, I got some local acknowledgements in the local papers for my heroism in tackling the would be attacker. :-)

                                                        To keep it on topic, this was at the Galaxy Diner on St George Ave in Woodbridge Nj great onion rings!

                                        2. I can understand the disappointment.

                                          Down here in Florida, we have also had closures due to inclement weather. We call them hurricanes. Even the soulless money maker Disney shut down for a day for Hurricane Charlie. And then offered a free day to all guest pass holders upon their return in the next year.

                                          I have had to cancel reservations for a variety of reasons through the years. And some times I have just not gone. I have been sick, forgetful, caught in traffic pre cell phone, and having a marvelous conversation. Translation: Trying to get laid. So in my greater scheme of things I can understand the abrupt closing. But like you, I would still be disappointed. And like you, it pays to be flexible, not impotent.

                                          Your front came through last night and dropped us down to 75 F for today. Take Care. :-)

                                          1. Understand the disappointment but can't see how the resto made out financially by closing. The potential income from that night is gone forever.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: sal_acid

                                              If they would have made $500 by staying open for the few customers who would have made it in, but it cost them $800 for the expenses to pay for staff wages, food, electricity, etc, it made more financial sense to close that night.

                                              1. re: boogiebaby

                                                But they should also consider the value of the good will of the customers whose reservations they cancelled. The op indicated that it was a special occasion and obviously the weather was not so severe as to discourage the op nor their guests from going out. I maintain that if the restaurant's decision to close for the evening was based on a business decision (a profitability motive) rather than safety for guests and staff, a smart business decision would include a sincere apology, an explanation, and yes likely some tangible perk/gift to the disappointed guests.