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? Philly.com 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.


Jeremy

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

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.

Marshall

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

James

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

Andrew

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.

Len Jaffe

The problem with that solution is that if you have not written agreement with the patron, and you do not explicitly bill for the use of the table (table rental 1.5 hrs) than you have not sold them anything, and you, as the merchant will lose a dispute when the cardholder requests a charge-back on the bill.

The first world problems of restaurants that are filled to capacity. Woe is me! I have too much business.

Ben

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.

Impossibly Stupid

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.

Eric Valpey

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.

allen

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.

litenarata

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.

Jen

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!

RGJ

Ham-handed. I think if it is such an enormous problem you take a credit card and tell them there is a ___ no show fee. Doctors do it. Some golf courses do it. If the no show wants to fight it with the credit card company withdraw it and blacklist his real name, which you'll have from the credit card.

Plus the knucklehead is going to "out" someone and find out he died in a car wreck or had a heart attack...PR nightmare.

There is another issue here, and it is the same one that forbids TV camera from filming in front of banks (or at least the FDIC used to when I worked for them). People going into an establishment together may be a somewhat private thing. Not only an affair, of course, but a private business deal, meeting with a headhunter, whatever and etc.

Hey, I know the restaurant business a little bit. This is the price of doing business, just like the people who take a table of eight and share appetizers with glasses of tap water. You smile and suck it up.

This guy sounds like the soup Nazi.

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SAO

No, I don't think no-shows should be named and shamed. If you get in a fender-bender or a family member lands in the hospital and you completely forget, having people you know, but not well enough to share your personal life with, know is unfair. We all know busybodies who take you to task for minor offenses, leaving you stuck explaining what's none of their business or getting an undeserved lecture.

My experience with this kind of thing is that often, if you call the restaurant, the low-level staff member who answers the phone doesn't really care about your apology. Either the table's long gone and they don't care, or it was a pain for them with people waiting in line, complaining, while a table sat visibly empty and they aren't happy to be reminded of the problem you caused.

MRB

Maybe it's gauche, but take a deposit. Figure out the low-end of cost per person at your restaurant (say, $30 a head) and charge that, fully applied to the cost of your meal.

That at least minimizes losses for the restaurant, provides a strong financial incentive for reservants to show, and for patrons who can't get seated, at least they understand that someone already paid for the space they aren't using.

Luka

Fantastic way to incentivize people to show up if they a book a table

Neel

...Surely someone could just reserve under a fake name.

Eric M. Jones

I recommend:

"Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin" which contains the best methods for dealing with customers who won't obey the rules. There are lots and lots of rules.

Shopsin is rumored to have been the model for Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" character. I don't think Shopsin even took reservations, but if he had, you'd better show up...or else!