Should No-Shows Be Shamed on Twitter?

Photo Credit: DavidHughes via Compfight cc

Restaurants that take reservations risk misallocating resources if a customer doesn’t show up. So is there a good way to place an appropriate cost on no-shows? reports on one restaurant owner’s tactic and its drawbacks:

The owner of L.A. restaurant Red  Medicine went to social media to Tweet the full names of no-shows Saturday.

Eater L.A. has an interview with Red Medicine owner Noah Ellis, who said he tweeted the names out of frustration.

“Either restaurants are forced to overbook and make the guests (that actually showed up) wait, or they do what we do, turn away guests for some prime-time slots because they’re booked, and then have empty tables,” he said.

Weighing in on the matter was Consumerist, which posits that the tactic may backfire, as some patrons may balk at making a reservation there, even if they intend to keep it.

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  1. Jeremy says:

    That seems a little harsh, and probably violating some privacy by revealing people’s names without their consent. (Or maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know the details on privacy laws). What if the restaurant just gives the people a limit of 5 -10 minutes to show up? After that, they lose their reservation.

    On a separate but related topic, I personally think some restaurants should do a better job at reserving tables for presently paying customers. For example, I remember several times walking into a Chipotle during peak hours only to get my food and not find a table because the family of 4 got their little 6 year-old to save them a table but they’re all still waiting in line. Technically, I’m the customer since I PAID for something, now I get to use the restaurant’s seating, right? While the others aren’t customers yet. So I think this is a two-way street, however, it is slightly different situations and different restaurant styles.

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    • m.m says:

      An incredibly small (floorspace-wise) restaurant in Portland (called Por que no) has a good solution for this problem: You can’t sit until you order. Yes, the line out the door can be quite long, and the tables are almost always full, but, amazingly, just after you place your order, there always seems to be a table opening up that you and your party can sit down at. I’ve never been disappointed.

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    • allen says:

      Are you serious? Are you saying you want a reserved table at Chipotle? Next you’ll be demanding a reserved table at taco bell. You’re a funny dude.

      By the way, what privacy laws are violated by revealing names of no-shows. I was not aware of a restaurant patron privacy act.

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  2. Marshall says:

    Seems like the simple solution is to just not take reservations. Then you can fill every table you have just as you have it.

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    • James says:

      Another simple solution would be to charge for making reservations, with the charge deducted from the eventual bill if the customers do show up.

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    • Jen says:

      There are restaurants I would like to go to, but won’t, due to their no reservation policy. Waiting 1-2 hours for a table is, to my mind, crazy.

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  3. Andrew says:

    I don’t think this will stop anybody from making a reservation there, nor will it make them more likely to show up. I would call this just a frustration move.

    Just require those reserving tables to leave a credit card number that will be charged if they don’t show up.

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    • Len Jaffe says:

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  4. Ben says:

    You can charge a fee to hold the table, though demanding a credit card for a reservation will likely turn off some.

    Or not accept reservations at all, which will in theory have you turning away people who have already arrived with full wallets and empty bellies.

    Or have a 15 minute rule or some such, where they lose table if they aren’t prompt, but be sure to tell them when they book the reservation!

    Or you can eat it the loss, to avoid losing customers.

    Shaming a customer is the public eye is never going to be good for business.

    Why should I take a chance on that restaurant, and how do I know what frustrates the management? Maybe I’m wearing the wrong color codpiece.

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  5. Impossibly Stupid says:

    Not yet mentioned, but from a “security” standpoint, how does the restaurant even know that the names they are shaming are those of the people who actually made the reservations? Without a reasonable level of validation, it is foolish to start badmouthing people based on what could be a prank call.

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  6. Eric Valpey says:

    The simple solution (and I mean *really* simple solution!) is to ask the person making the reservation for a busy time “Will you be sure to call us ahead of time if you aren’t able to make your reservation?”

    Seriously, that is all a restaurant needs to do. When people are forced to answer that question, (which is always “yes”) they feel a commitment to solving the restaurant’s problem, and will follow through.

    Reservations made on-line or with an app could include a method to do something similar with a notification built into the app to pop up at an appropriate time (say, an hour before hand) with the option to confirm or call to cancel or postpone.

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    • allen says:

      Whats the incentive for them to call to cancel since they’re not coming in anyway. The more effective thing to do is to not take reservations for logged no-shows. I’m not saying blacklist them, just don’t make reservations. If there are slots to fill then you can take them. Of course, that type of policy is only as effective as the popularity of the restaurant.

      Also to be fair, the customers should be aware that you will not honor future reservations if they do not show up.

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  7. litenarata says:

    I don’t get it. Why doesn’t the restaurant simply use a “15-minutes late with no notice, lose your reservation” rule? That seems like the simplest solution for everyone.

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    • Joe J says:

      Simple but expensive only for those who kept up their side of the agreement. 15 min late thing harms the resteraunt. That was space they could have used for a different reservation, or several since reservations are not always for just 2. So it is 15 minutes in prime time of the table just sitting there. then 15 min re orgainzing the table because the non reservation people are a different size. Which doesn’t always match. Tables empty during prime time costs the resteraunt a LOT of money.

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      • Oliver H says:

        Sorry, but that argument is not convincing. Whether someone is sitting there chatting or the table is empty doesn’t make a bit of a difference, and 15 min is certainly within the confidence interval of the average duration of a multi-course meal. Quite the contrary, the previous guests might decide to have another glass of wine if they don’t have to leave RIGHT NOW.

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  8. Jen says:

    A restaurant in our city uses an online system for reservations which requires a working phone number and email (you can also call, but I assume that they request similar information).

    You receive a confirmation email, a day before phone call reminder, and a day-of email reminder. Just the fact that they do this clues you in to the idea that your reservation is important and makes you much more likely to let them know if you are not going to make it.

    In fact, last weekend traffic was unexpectedly bad. When it became clear we were going to be about 5-10 minutes late, we called from the car to say we were on the way. I imagine other people feel more compelled to be both prompt and/or responsible as well!

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