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Restaurant Reservations Should Require A Credit Card And A Contract


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#1 DonRocks

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 05:26 PM

I've heard one too many stories of last-minute cancellations for no good reason. Restaurants should require a credit card and a contract to hold reservations for diners. This is no different than buying an opera ticket. If you can't make it to the opera, either sell your ticket to someone else, or eat the cost of it.

If hotels require a credit card to hold a reservation, then why shouldn't restaurants?

I will be at the vanguard of any movement that requires diners to give credit card numbers and sign contracts in order to secure a reservation. I'm sick of people taking advantage of the "hospitality" industry just because they can.

Debate me if you'd like, but rest assured I feel very strongly about this, and am willing to go to the mat for it.

It's time for it to happen, and it's long overdue.

You know? If you break your leg at 4:45 PM for a 5 PM reservation, and a restaurant doesn't let it slide, then by all means, let's reserve a special place in Hell for them, and expose them publicly for being money-grubbing misanthropes, but the vast majority of cancellations are simply because people think they can get away with it without penalty or repercussion. It's time for this sorry chapter to come to a end.

Honor your reservation, or pay the price for not doing so. Diners have had it too easy for too long, and it's going to take someone like me (a diner) to speak up and force these entitled leeches to take financial responsibility for their actions.

Cheers,
Rocks

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#2 The Hersch

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 05:32 PM

This is no different than buying an opera ticket. If you can't make it to the opera, either sell your ticket to someone else, or eat the cost of it.


Funny, I just bought an opera ticket a few minutes ago, and was even thinking shit, what if something comes up and I can't make it, I'll be out all this money.

Anyway, I agree with the substance of what you say, but what brought on this tirade?

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#3 mtureck

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 06:08 PM

Normally I wouldn't reply to a post merely to say I completely agree with it, but I'm overdue for a positive response to something Don wrote, so here it is! :)

If you cancel far enough in advance for the restaurant to re-book someone else or add a walk-up, no charge. If not, you're on the hook.

#4 Pat

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 06:36 PM

I've heard one too many stories of last-minute cancellations for no good reason. Restaurants should require a credit card and a contract to hold reservations for diners. This is no different than buying an opera ticket. If you can't make it to the opera, either sell your ticket to someone else, or eat the cost of it.

If hotels require a credit card to hold a reservation, then why shouldn't restaurants?

I will be at the vanguard of any movement that requires diners to give credit card numbers and sign contracts in order to secure a reservation. I'm sick of people taking advantage of the "hospitality" industry just because they can.

Debate me if you'd like, but rest assured I feel very strongly about this, and am willing to go to the mat for it.

It's time for it to happen, and it's long overdue.

You know? If you break your leg at 4:45 PM for a 5 PM reservation, and a restaurant doesn't let it slide, then by all means, let's reserve a special place in Hell for them, and expose them publicly for being money-grubbing misanthropes, but the vast majority of cancellations are simply because people think they can get away with it without penalty or repercussion. It's time for this sorry chapter to come to a end.

Honor your reservation, or pay the price for not doing so. Diners have had it too easy for too long, and it's going to take someone like me (a diner) to speak up and force these entitled leeches to take financial responsibility for their actions.

Cheers,
Rocks


This sounds like a good way to have fewer people going out to eat. I assume you mean a certain caliber of restaurants would do this and not all restaurants that take reservations, but the unintended consequences could be pretty huge.

The idea of comparing eating at a restaurant with going to the opera alone makes it sound like eating out is something rarefied that only certain people are able to appreciate.

#5 DonRocks

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 06:42 PM

This sounds like a good way to have fewer people going out to eat. I assume you mean a certain caliber of restaurants would do this and not all restaurants that take reservations, but the unintended consequences could be pretty huge.

The idea of comparing eating at a restaurant with going to the opera alone makes it sound like eating out is something rarefied that only certain people are able to appreciate.


Hotel then. Or mortgage payments. Or movie tickets bought in advance. Or any other promise to fulfill a contract that is broken. Why are restaurants so unique that they alone have to suffer through cancellations? Even physicians now require 24 hours to cancel.

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#6 dcs

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 06:50 PM

Hotel then. Or mortgage payments. Or any other promise to fulfill a contract that is broken. Why are restaurants so unique that they alone have to suffer through cancellations? Even physicians now require 24 hours to cancel.


I have reservations next week for a large party (8 people) at CraftBar in NYC. They asked for a credit card, I think because it was a large party. They said I could cancel the same day, even an hour or two before the reservation, at no charge. They said what they want to avoid is a complete no-show. I thought that was a reasonable policy. I think a 24 hour cancellation policy is pushing it, however. Unlike physicians or the opera, restuarants are more likely to fill empty slots with walk-ins and last minute reservations. I think CraftBar has adopted a fine compromise.

#7 Rovers2000

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 06:54 PM

Hotel then. Or mortgage payments. Or movie tickets bought in advance. Or any other promise to fulfill a contract that is broken. Why are restaurants so unique that they alone have to suffer through cancellations? Even physicians now require 24 hours to cancel.


Not to play the hyperbole police but really, mortgage payments? Come on Don.

I copmletely agree with Pat and dcs that at a certain caliber of restaurant, or a special event, this makes complete sense. That said, I'm also in support of a blacklist where folks who use opentable, etc to book multiple places in one night or cancel the day of.

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#8 DonRocks

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 06:55 PM

Not to play the hyperbole police but really, mortgage payments? Come on Don.


How does a bank need money any more than a restaurant?

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#9 Rovers2000

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 06:59 PM

A 30 (or 15) year contract has a tad more weight behind it than a one time event.

(null)

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#10 DonRocks

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 07:08 PM

A 30 (or 15) year contract has a tad more weight behind it than a one time event.

(null)


Okay, so we'll make it a "one-time-only" missed mortgage payment. Both are (or should be) contractual obligations.

Your better argument here is that if you've lived in a place for a month, you absolutely owe the money. Not paying a mortgage payment would be akin to eating and leaving without paying the check. But what about if you sign a lease (for rent, not mortgage) and never move in? Should you be able to go around and sign five different leases, and then choose the one that best suits you, eschewing the others? Because that's exactly what some diners do, and the reason they do it is because they can. Let's have these diners put up a deposit for each reservation they make, and then we'll see how often they no-show.

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#11 Pat

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 07:09 PM

Hotel then. Or mortgage payments. Or movie tickets bought in advance. Or any other promise to fulfill a contract that is broken. Why are restaurants so unique that they alone have to suffer through cancellations? Even physicians now require 24 hours to cancel.


People need to eat but they have many different options for eating. If you need to see your doctor, you really need to see your doctor. If you're desperate to see this particular cast of Oklahoma!, you commit yourself to being there, even if you lose money if you can't go. The latter may also apply if, say, you desperately want to get to Rogue 24 this month.

While I completely understand restaurants requiring credit cards for major holidays--ones where people are known to make multiple reservations and flake out--doing it across the board will generate consumer backlash.

While I like Belga (the last restaurant where I ate a meal) just fine, if I had to give a credit card and agree to a contract to make a reservation there for a regular (non-special event) meal, I wouldn't do it.

#12 DonRocks

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 07:15 PM

While I like Belga (the last restaurant where I ate a meal) just fine, if I had to give a credit card and agree to a contract to make a reservation there for a regular (non-special event) meal, I wouldn't do it.


Why not?

Sure hasn't hurt the airlines.

(Not trying to be an argumentative prick with my friends, but obviously I feel strongly about this issue. I respect every opinion that has been stated here.)

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#13 Pat

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 07:24 PM

Why not?

Sure hasn't hurt the airlines.


Well, if it turned out that my husband had to work late and we couldn't go--or he missed his flight from somewhere and wouldn't be home in time--we'd be out whatever money they'd charge for a deposit. I've actually cancelled anniversary and similar dinners because of that and have fortunately had no problem. Other times I've scrambled and tried to find someone else to go. I hate that kind of pressure.

I very rarely ever cancel reservations, and it's for things like that. Not everybody goes out to dinner every night or enjoys having to go out every night. There are plenty of times I've had reservations that I really didn't feel like going to but went anyway because I was committed to it. Having the penalty of paying money for not going would make me more likely not to reserve in the first place.

#14 Waitman

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 07:35 PM

"Fuck that shit," as esteemed philosopher George Clinton so elequently puts it.

Good restaurants are selling a moment of fantasy. If they want to start the relationship by treating you like some poor sod queuing for the Delta Flight 1844 to Raleigh-Durham -- or, calling them a liar -- that's their choice, but thet should probably stop pretending to be part of the "hospitality" industry and term it "industrial provisioning." Oh, and don't call me a guest. "Funder" will do.

Note also that no one on on this board would pay $600 for dinner for two -- as my wife recently did for my wonderful birthday dinner at Marcel's -- if they expected to be treated like they are by airlines or doctors, so can we dispense with those bullshit allusions right now?

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#15 DonRocks

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 07:40 PM

Note also that no one on on this board would pay $600 for dinner for two -- as my wife recently did for my wonderful birthday dinner at Marcel's -- if they expected to be treated like they are by airlines or doctors, so can we dispense with those bullshit allusions right now?


Sure, let's dispense with the bullshit allusions and leave restaurants as the only business in existence to be penalized for no-shows.

Buy a ticket to "Cats" if you want your moment of fantasy. And then don't show up and see what happens.

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#16 Heather

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 08:02 PM

Having the penalty of paying money for not going would make me more likely not to reserve in the first place.


Agreed, 100%. Dining out is not as important as airline tickets, or opera tickets.

Frankly, my kid's ear infection, or the server blowing up at work, is going to suck enough without getting dinged for $100 on my missed dinner res.

#17 Waitman

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 08:05 PM

Sure, let's dispense with the bullshit allusions and leave restaurants as the only business in existence to be penalized for no-shows.

Buy a ticket to "Cats" if you want your moment of fantasy. And then don't show up and see what happens.


If I can't make Cats, I sell my tickets on e-bay.

I don't drop big money on restaurants to be treated like some peasant. Every business has risks.

--- "Hi, I'd like to drop several hundred dollars in your establishment over the course of two hours next Wednesday."

-- "Cerainly sir, but we assume we assume that you're a deadbeat. Please sign the contract and fax your credit information to our comptroller."

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#18 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 08:16 PM

If I can't make Cats, I sell my tickets on e-bay.

I don't drop big money on restaurants to be treated like some peasant. Every business has risks.

--- "Hi, I'd like to drop several hundred dollars in your establishment over the course of two hours next Wednesday."

-- "Cerainly sir, but we assume we assume that you're a deadbeat. Please sign the contract and fax your credit information to our comptroller."


So you won't eat at Komi, Rogue 24, or the Minibar? Really? How does signing a contract make you a peasant? Peasants attend the opera? I didn't realize those people in tuxes are peasants. I didn't realize I'm a peasant.

#19 Mrs. B

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 08:17 PM

,I disagree with Waitman. I think the restaurant is well within its rights to request a credit card number and have a certain period of time for notification of a change in plan (or emergency - assuming the best of people not lying) of the prospective customer. Marcel's didn't btw and I liked that, but I would have provided if asked.

That said, I find contracts really off putting and would like to know if they are necessary in order to enforce a charge on the credit card of a no-show or if there is some other purpose that they serve other than making hoops to jump through and an additional hassle that makes one potentially walk into a meal with a bad taste in one's mouth from the outset?

#20 Heather

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 08:26 PM

A credit card number to reserve, maybe. A contract? No. Life is simply too unpredictable, and dining is a pleasure that's easy to do without. Make it an obligation, like theater tickets, and pretty soon dining rooms with be as empty as the symphony halls.

A ticket is sort of a contract, but most people don't like to think of their pleasures that way.

#21 dcs

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 08:29 PM

A ticket is sort of a contract, but most people don't like to think of their pleasures that way.


A ticket for a concert or the theater may have some resale value. A dinner reservation, not so much. Then again, maybe this is a business opportunity for a secondary market.

#22 weezy

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 08:35 PM

I can certainly see a requirement for large parties to give credit card information against reasonable notice if they aren't going to make the reservation. And I can certainly understand restaurants asking for cc#s during prime time.

Before I moved to this area, I was up here interviewing and staying with a friend who worked for the company. It was a small and chummy group, so the boss-to-be came over for some drinks before we headed out for dinner, and got on the phone and made reservations (on a Friday night) at 4 different restaurants -- and it would have been more if she had been able to get reservations at a few others. I was surprised. I was aghast when it was time to get ourselves out the door that she didn't call and cancel any of the superfluous reservations she had made and dismissed my concern that it was bad form. I did end up moving to the area and working for her for a year, during which time I discovered that her disregard of anything but her own whims extended to all comers.

I guess the moral of my story is that I think that blatant over-reservers are giving you a peek at their true nature. Just like never continue to date someone who treats the waitstaff poorly.

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#23 Waitman

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 09:33 PM

So you won't eat at Komi, Rogue 24, or the Minibar? Really? How does signing a contract make you a peasant? Peasants attend the opera? I didn't realize those people in tuxes are peasants. I didn't realize I'm a peasant.


Showing up exactly when told, streaming into your cramped seat when they ring the bell like Pavlovian cattle at the abbatoir, experiencing bad sightlines and dubious sound (sorry, just located the position of my tickets for the NSO next Friday, a touch bitter), paying outlandish money for terrible wine? Sounds like peasantry to me.

But, the opera is selling the music, the fact that you're treated like a commodity is secondary. A restaurant delivers both food and service, and charges out the ass for it. they need to deliver twice.

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#24 Jeff Heineman

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 09:47 PM

A ticket for a concert or the theater may have some resale value. A dinner reservation, not so much. Then again, maybe this is a business opportunity for a secondary market.


They already tried that http://nyc.tablexchange.com/

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#25 The Hersch

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 10:05 PM

Sure hasn't hurt the airlines.


Um, if you're trying to sell the airlines' business model to other industries, I think you've got some very heavy lifting ahead.

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#26 TedE

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 12:22 AM

Sure, let's dispense with the bullshit allusions and leave restaurants as the only business in existence to be penalized for no-shows.


But, Don, doctors don't have walk-ups waiting at the bar for an exam table to open up.

If a restaurant is sufficiently popular to be hurt financially by no-shows then by definition they should be able to fill some not-insignificant percentage of no-show seats via existing demand. I'm not saying I disagree with the notion that there needs to be incentive for diners not to behave like assholes these days, but I don't think a sea change in the dining social contract (pun intended) is required. From a karmic perspective I find the idea of openly shared blacklists very tempting.

(Oh, and I would totally patronize doctors with waiting room bar service. I think the AMA would frown on it, though)

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#27 Eric Ziebold

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 12:38 AM

(since I don't know how to quote somebody I'm going to have to respond in a tedious manner. sorry)

In answer to Heather's question, you can't really do much without a signed contract. Asking for a cc# is merely crossing your fingers and hoping that you're weeding out the people that make multiple reservations. (unfortunately, said people have probably realized at this point that it is merely an illusion....this pending penalty) You need something signed, hence the reason that most restaurants (us included) only go through the paperwork process for what that restaurant would consider a large group. I'm guessing that everyone else (hotels, operas, airlines etc....) get around this in the disclaimer portion of the online process that I know I personally click on without ever reading.

---

[Eric, to quote a post, click on "Quote" on the bottom-right of that post, and it will magically appear in the box. Then, begin typing right underneath it, preferably using one blank line for readability. It should be obvious.]

Edited by DonRocks, A minute ago.

Edited by DonRocks, 08 March 2012 - 09:39 AM.

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#28 Eric Ziebold

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 12:46 AM

(please note above disclaimer pertaining to technical shortcomings in the internet age....)

Waitman, to start with, I'm super confused as to why you're ordering terrible wine??? If you're considering all wine terrible then of course you would consider the mark-up outlandish.

To your question of restaurants claiming to be in the hospitality business as opposed to industrial provision experience I'll respond in my more serious post.
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#29 Eric Ziebold

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 01:04 AM

To Waitman's point somewhere upthread, yes all business take risks. Hence the reason for outlandish wine mark-ups etc...I think what's being debated here is whether or not restaurants are taking too much of the risk.

To the point of ticket sales, and resale. (for restaurants that have gone or may go to that.) Of course tickets should be allowed to be resold, but of course it would only be good for the timeframe that you bought it for. So the only question I would ask, is would the ticket model cause you to begin the process of selling your ticket on ebay earlier than you would just call a restaurant to cancel. One would assume you may have a challenge selling a ticket on ebay that essentially expires in an hour......

We ask for cc#'s, and we ask for a signed contract on tables of 6 or more. The amount of times we've charged someone in 7+ years, probably twice. The amount of times we've bitten the bullet, too many to count.
Personally, I don't think the point will come in my lifetime that even a noticeable minority of restaurants will take contract info. on all reservations, it's too prohibitive, too time consuming, and would be way too expensive. But I don't think that me trying to find a way of mitigating my risk would rule me out of the hospitality industry. It's pretty hard to clear, mark, serve food, and cook food for someone that decided to go to one of the other restaurants that they booked reservations at. In fact the question I would ask, and the reason I think some people here are in favor of some restaurants reservations contracts, is that would I be able to give you a better experience if I was able to mitigate some of my risk? Would I be able to provide better hospitality, (with less of an outlandish wine mark-up) for the people that actually showed up for their reservation?
All of the arguments are a little bit the chicken and the egg issue. Unlike airlines, doctors, and even hotels, there is way too much competition within restaurants for their ever to be a standard practice of reservation contracts for all reservations, in my opinion.
But what if......
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#30 Eric Ziebold

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 01:57 AM

The wife says "with what ifs you could put Paris in a bottle."
Usually she only confuses me when she speaks in French.....
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#31 darkstar965

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 02:37 AM

I'm with Don on this one. To me it's a question of common courtesy and mutual respect. Diners/customers of course expect great food, perfect service and infinite flexibility at low prices. Well, seems just decent that the restaurants could expect to get paid when tables are blocked and held. Even moreso because a small number of no-shows can turn a profitable night to unprofitable and because this is the norm in so many other industries (mostly debated upthread so I won't again here). And how often do customers complain about restaurants in high foot-traffic locations that don't take reservations? Pearl Dive just one that comes to mind there. No doubt this concern--Don's initial concern--is a much bigger problem for some restaurants than others.

If all customers could be counted on just to be courteous (call and cancel if you change your mind with as much notice as possible) this would be a non-issue. But that's fantasy land. Already seems like most restaurants treat customers reasonably on this per Eric's point:

We ask for cc#'s, and we ask for a signed contract on tables of 6 or more. The amount of times we've charged someone in 7+ years, probably twice. The amount of times we've bitten the bullet, too many to count.


And that would seemingly address Pat's concerns:

Well, if it turned out that my husband had to work late and we couldn't go--or he missed his flight from somewhere and wouldn't be home in time--we'd be out whatever money they'd charge for a deposit. I've actually cancelled anniversary and similar dinners because of that and have fortunately had no problem. Other times I've scrambled and tried to find someone else to go. I hate that kind of pressure.

I very rarely ever cancel reservations, and it's for things like that. Not everybody goes out to dinner every night or enjoys having to go out every night. There are plenty of times I've had reservations that I really didn't feel like going to but went anyway because I was committed to it. Having the penalty of paying money for not going would make me more likely not to reserve in the first place.


Penalty shouldn't be for not going. The penalty should be for not notifying with reasonable notice without a good reason.

Of course, some especially popular restaurants are much better positioned to institute something like this but personally I'd have no problem with it at any spot that takes my reservation. I can bother to make a call with at least a few hour (maybe 3-6 hours?) advance notice requirement. And, in the very rare situations when I really couldn't do that, I'd expect restaurants to listen to the reason and be reasonable in excusing it.

#32 Waitman

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 06:45 AM

(please note above disclaimer pertaining to technical shortcomings in the internet age....)

Waitman, to start with, I'm super confused as to why you're ordering terrible wine??? If you're considering all wine terrible then of course you would consider the mark-up outlandish.

To your question of restaurants claiming to be in the hospitality business as opposed to industrial provision experience I'll respond in my more serious post.


I was referring to the Opera (or im my case, Symphony) experience at the Kennedy Center, in response to EricandBlueboy's asking whether people at the Opera were treated like peasants. You know, where they serve those little screw-top bottles of Pinot Grigio or whatever for $8 a pop.

As you know, when dining out I usually drink whatever Andy or, sometimes, Jarad, tell me to drink, and it is always reasonably priced (as far as I know, Andy tends to break out the weird Bekaa Valley red when we come around) and intriguingly delicious.

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#33 Waitman

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 07:09 AM

To Waitman's point somewhere upthread, yes all business take risks. Hence the reason for outlandish wine mark-ups etc...I think what's being debated here is whether or not restaurants are taking too much of the risk.

To the point of ticket sales, and resale. (for restaurants that have gone or may go to that.) Of course tickets should be allowed to be resold, but of course it would only be good for the timeframe that you bought it for. So the only question I would ask, is would the ticket model cause you to begin the process of selling your ticket on ebay earlier than you would just call a restaurant to cancel. One would assume you may have a challenge selling a ticket on ebay that essentially expires in an hour......

We ask for cc#'s, and we ask for a signed contract on tables of 6 or more. The amount of times we've charged someone in 7+ years, probably twice. The amount of times we've bitten the bullet, too many to count.
Personally, I don't think the point will come in my lifetime that even a noticeable minority of restaurants will take contract info. on all reservations, it's too prohibitive, too time consuming, and would be way too expensive. But I don't think that me trying to find a way of mitigating my risk would rule me out of the hospitality industry. It's pretty hard to clear, mark, serve food, and cook food for someone that decided to go to one of the other restaurants that they booked reservations at. In fact the question I would ask, and the reason I think some people here are in favor of some restaurants reservations contracts, is that would I be able to give you a better experience if I was able to mitigate some of my risk? Would I be able to provide better hospitality, (with less of an outlandish wine mark-up) for the people that actually showed up for their reservation?
All of the arguments are a little bit the chicken and the egg issue. Unlike airlines, doctors, and even hotels, there is way too much competition within restaurants for their ever to be a standard practice of reservation contracts for all reservations, in my opinion.
But what if......


I've grown so used to giving out my credit card number on line and on the phone that it's only a minor irritant.

The contract thing raises the stakes by a whole order of magnitude both in terms of the time it consumes and the message it sends.

There are any number of ways restaurants could cut their overhead -- decore, staffing, linens, place settings, turning the tables, etc. -- and thus reduce wine markup (which appears to have become the de-facto benchmark here). But at the sort of places likely to e-mail you a contract, you're paying a premium not to have corners cut, for a seamless pleasurable experience -- from the warmth of the greeting to the heft of the flatware to the lingering taste of the '77 Warres. It seems odd and off-putting to me to begin that expoerience by calling your "guest" a deadbeat and forcing them into a legal agreement as a precondition for enjoying a restaurant's "hospitality."

Perhaps if I could negotiate the contract -- demanding certain tables and servers, inserting an arbitration clause should I find the wine unacceptable or the server snotty, and recieving discounts should the meal be interrupted by a fire drill (this has happened) or an unseamly drunk at the next table (this has happened to the people next to me)...

"Don't go braggin' about how cool and clean your kitchen is. 'Caus if your kitchen's so cool and clean, ain't nothin' cookin'!"

-- Jesse Jackson


#34 porcupine

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 07:38 AM

--- "Hi, I'd like to drop several hundred dollars in your establishment over the course of two hours next Wednesday."

-- "Cerainly sir, but we assume we assume that you're a deadbeat. Please sign the contract and fax your credit information to our comptroller."


I have to agree with Waitman. It's offputting. Especially when (for example) the restaurant is so popular they book up a month in advance even on a weeknight, often require a credit card number, keep a waiting list, call you a day before (or two or three for a weekend res) to confirm, are unable to do anything about it when they lose your reservation, and then later hit you with the requirement that on certain days of the week there is a minimum order at dinner (for example, you aren't allowed to order one appetizer for your first course and another for your main course). It's like they're saying "we are allowing you the privilege of dining with us (so long as you spend a certain amount of money)," which is obnoxious. It certainly isn't very hospitable, especially when they claim to be part of the hospitality industry and insist on referring to their customers as guests.

With a long wait list and frequent walk-ins (as I've observed), they don't seem to have much risk of losing covers. Do they really need to go through all that, and insist on people ordering a minimum amount of food, too? It's like they're cultivating an air of elitism.

I don't dine there much anymore. It's just unpleasant. Damn shame, the food is good.

From what I've seen, it's the more middle-of-the-road restaurants that suffer from no-shows. And they don't have the clout to ask for a credit card upfront. That is a sticky situation.

eta: I didn't mean to be parroting Waitman; I started typing this before he posted his last piece (including using the word "offputting", really).

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#35 DonRocks

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 09:32 AM

You know, I really think the whole contract thing is somewhat unseemly and offputting, too "Well, then why did you bring it up in the first place, Don?"

But when you order an airline ticket from Expedia (or wherever), I think you're clicking "I Agree To The Terms" which in essence is signing a contract, no? It's not like you're being faxed some five-page thing to read and sign, but you *are* committing yourself financially in case you miss your flight.

And I don't think restaurants should bill 100% by any means (except for no-call, no-shows - those people should be thrown in the hoosegow). But there should be *some* penalty for just not showing up - restaurants order food the night before based on an expected number of diners, they staff (servers, barbacks, dishwashers, runners) based on how many people they anticipate serving. It just doesn't seem fair that they should be stuck with the bill for selfish turds who make multiple reservations and then pick the one that best suit their needs at the time.

I do think restaurants should be forgiving of people who call, with either ample notice, or a darned good reason, but I also think - especially at the upscale level - that a small penalty of some sort would act as a deterrent for no-shows. Is this so unreasonable? Like Eric said, they've actually charged two people in seven years.

If people took their reservations more seriously and with more responsibility, then this would be much, much less of a problem, and as much as I hate to say it, those are the types of people where financial threats produce compliance, whether they'll actually be implemented or not. No restaurant that I'm aware of actually wants to shaft their customers, for Pete's sake.

Carry on.

PS I also want to thank everyone for a wonderful discussion with absolutely no banal comments - you guys are the best.

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#36 Eric Ziebold

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 10:19 AM

While I agree that most people are going to be put off by the contract of booking a reservation, is it in part because that is something that would be new, different, and a change in the standard routine? Years down the road would it possibly become an accepted part of the practice? While, I don't think it'll ever happen as I said upthread, I think acceptance and managing the process are the 2 biggest hurdles. I don't think it would work with a constant emailing/scanning/faxing of documents, its just way to laborious. If it did/was standard practice then the assumption or when asked for a credit card would no longer be a personal affront of your moral character. Since people are citing personal experiences then I'll throw this into the mix. We do a wine event that sells out in 45 minutes. Weeks later at the time of the event we get the call for cancellation. Why try and book the now vacant seats to no avail and can't.
So what should we do assume next time that people calling to book the event are deadbeats? Raise the price from $95 and make the people that show up pay for the people that don't? We could always stop doing the event, but then the people that did come and have a really fun time last night are still the ones that lose out.
I also, understand how annoying the email confirmations and call backs to confirm your reservation can be. I would love to not have to pay somebody to perform said task. There's a reason why restaurants are paying somebody to try and follow up to make sure that you're going to come to your reservation. The belief is that you're protecting more revenue than payroll you're spending.
And that sort of takes me back to my initial point, what if we didn't have to waste money calling to make sure people were going to show up for their reservation? Would we have more resources to make your evening at the restaurant better. (which in some cases may be getting the fire alarm turned off faster)
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#37 Eric Ziebold

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 10:26 AM

What if (queries about Paris and bottles going off in my head) there was some sort of universal reservation software/black list/rewards program etc.....(something else that to the dismay of Open Table they will probably never become. You earned points/lost points based on your reservation history. So when Waitman calls up to make a reservation I can see that he's rated 5* with an amazing 495 out of 496 reservations completed. Probably wouldn't need to waste my time extrapolating a lot of needless information from him. (may need to update profile about aversion to screwtop wine, although I'm going to have Andy address that next time you're in. Which had better be soon now knowing that you went to Marcel's recently.....)
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#38 bookluvingbabe

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 11:03 AM

Sure.

But then I want some compensation for being screwed over when they can't honor my reservation in a timely manner. Or I have to wait 30 minutes for the valet to bring my car around the block. Etc.

Stuff happens. It is part of the business.

#39 Eric Ziebold

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 12:11 PM

Most restaurants already are in the habit of offering some sort of "compensation" when they can't seat you at the time of your reservation, so I don't think the "being seated in a timely fashion" holds much of an argument. (I don't think anyone is going to debate there are a lot more free drinks given out than restaurants charging for people not showing up.) Sometimes a "free cocktail" is works, sometimes changing the timing of somebody's night could ruin it. But wouldn't this seem to make more of a case for securing reservations in some capacity?
When I said earlier its sort of the case of "which came first the chicken or the egg"
You hear a lot of people commenting on the amount of follow-up calls/emails etc... from restaurants in regard to their reservations. I pose this as a question:
Is the taking of cc#'s, the follow up calls/emails the modern day equivalent of way overbooking a restaurant. To some degree the same way of tackling the same problem?
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#40 Eric Ziebold

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 12:15 PM

Elizabeth, I logged back on because I'm still scratching my head about your post.....
The example you used of a food minimum, was it a tasting menu only restaurant, special event or something?
I can't think of anyone other than maybe the old ESPN Sports Zone that wouldn't allow you to sit and watch the game in the comfy chairs unless you spent like $10 or something on food.
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#41 Eric Ziebold

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 12:23 PM

On the topic of valet, I would like to implore everyone, help us to help you.
Most restaurants outsource their valet service because of the huge insurance risk, as well as the fact that we're in the industrial provision business as opposed to the valet business.
I'm not trying to abscond from taking responsibility for the valet, in fact valet service is usually an expense for the restaurant as well as the restaurant patron.
I field MANY more complaints than I'd like about valet service. Unfortunately, most restaurants have no idea that you waited forever for your car until we read about it in a complaint letter. Please, if you're waiting a long time for your car come in and let someone from the restaurant know. I'm not saying we'll be able to get your car in the next 30 seconds, but I know that I hate paying for things that piss off my customers.
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#42 Eric Ziebold

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 12:26 PM

Don, could we possibly change the title to the thread to something like "solving world hunger 1 reservation at a time"?
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#43 Jeff Heineman

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 12:26 PM

. It seems odd and off-putting to me to begin that expoerience by calling your "guest" a deadbeat and forcing them into a legal agreement as a precondition for enjoying a restaurant's "hospitality."

Perhaps if I could negotiate the contract -- demanding certain tables and servers, inserting an arbitration clause should I find the wine unacceptable or the server snotty, and recieving discounts should the meal be interrupted by a fire drill (this has happened) or an unseamly drunk at the next table (this has happened to the people next to me)...


I doubt Citzen's contract has words or a tone that implies "deadbeat". But rest assured, they do exist. Contracts are aimed at them. we had a Friday night a few weeks ago where 32% of the reservations either no showed or cancelled after 5 pm.
Asking for servers or tables, returning wine, discounts for snotty servers, discounts for being next to a drunk are already happening. As for fire alarms, I believe that is on a case by case basis

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#44 Jeff Heineman

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 12:30 PM

Elizabeth, I logged back on because I'm still scratching my head about your post.....
The example you used of a food minimum, was it a tasting menu only restaurant, special event or something?
I can't think of anyone other than maybe the old ESPN Sports Zone that wouldn't allow you to sit and watch the game in the comfy chairs unless you spent like $10 or something on food.

On the topic of valet, I would like to implore everyone, help us to help you.
Most restaurants outsource their valet service because of the huge insurance risk, as well as the fact that we're in the industrial provision business as opposed to the valet business.
I'm not trying to abscond from taking responsibility for the valet, in fact valet service is usually an expense for the restaurant as well as the restaurant patron.
I field MANY more complaints than I'd like about valet service. Unfortunately, most restaurants have no idea that you waited forever for your car until we read about it in a complaint letter. Please, if you're waiting a long time for your car come in and let someone from the restaurant know. I'm not saying we'll be able to get your car in the next 30 seconds, but I know that I hate paying for things that piss off my customers.


Ditto and Ditto. I was about to say the exact same thng. Eric types much faster than I do.

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#45 Jeff Heineman

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 12:48 PM

One thing that needs to be stated is this - The restaurants for the most point want to industrially provide everyone. There is no evil intent to pick and choose specific guests. But with limited space (Daily at Citizen and Komi; Friday and Saturday nights at Grapeseed, et. al.) everyone can't be provided for. When we take a reservation for a prime time, many people call looking for that same spot and it doesn't exist. Then, when that reso cancels, we are disappointed and everyone who called for that same space and was denied is disappointed in some way as well.

The tone here seems to be that restaurants would rather keep people away out of spite than fill a table. it is more that we feel bad for all of the people who were trying to be industrially provided for and would have honored the reservation. But short of the idea of the rating system for guests outlned above the first caller/no show-ers will continue to screw the subsequent callers.

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#46 porcupine

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 12:56 PM

Eric, Jeff: this was in the less formal section of a restaurant that also offers a tasting menu only format in a more formal room. They've always been a la carte. When they called to comfirm the res they said that on Friday and Saturday nights there was, in effect, a three-course minimum. This happened last summer so I don't remember the exact words.
(typed on iphone while riding in car please forgive typos)

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#47 porcupine

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 12:58 PM

meant to write a la carte in the less formal room.

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#48 Heather

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 01:21 PM

OK, say my kid gets sick at the last minute and I cancel the day of my reservation. Do you penalize me, or make an exception? If you make an exception, how do you know that I am not just giving you some BS excuse? Who decides who has to pay? This would definitely give any parent a reason to worry about making a reservation anywhere.

EricandBlueBoy asked

So you won't eat at Komi, Rogue 24, or the Minibar? Really? How does signing a contract make you a peasant?


No, I'm not going to Komi or Rogue 24, or anyplace that only has a tasting menu because as everyone on this board surely knows by now, I am a peasant that hates tasting menus. Given that, the idea of giving a credit card number and signing a contract for a meal that I get no choice in makes me laugh. Are they going to tell me I have to enjoy it, too? :lol: Maybe I will miss out on some fabulous food. Oh well.

#49 SeanMike

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 01:37 PM

It seems to me that unlike some of the examples used here, a reservation that is ignored/skipped/etc. is the only one that causes the business to lose money, not the consumer.

if I buy an opera ticket and don't use it, they are still paid.

If I buy an airline ticket and don't use it, heck, the airline makes more money (since they use fractionally less fuel, or don't need to issue a voucher to someone, or provide me with my precious Coke Zero).

But a restaurant loses the opportunity for me to spend money. It costs me nothing to skip it, and they lose out on potential revenue (especially if they are holding a table for someone who cannot be bothered to call).

So, IMHO: yes, reservations should be confirmed. There should be a penalty for no-showing, but as long as you call ahead, they should give you the benefit of the doubt. After all, there are potential walk-ins.

And if you don't know if you can make it, you should realize you're taking the risk.

That's just me.

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#50 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 01:50 PM

I apologize for dragging Komi into this discussion because I don't recall signing a contract with them. As for shoddy treatment at the Kennedy Center, a $120 tax deductible contribution gets you into the members only lounge. I don't mind giving out my credit card # when making a reservation, just make it as painless as possible. Signing a contract is a pain. I've never blamed a restaurant for bad valets. I've never asked for a specific table in advance. I hate people who think they deserve special treatment.




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