How Toronto restaurants are dealing with the vexing problem of no-shows

How Toronto restaurants are dealing with the vexing problem of no-shows

Where are all my patrons? (Image: Ricardo Liberato)

Unlike skipping out on a party you’d promised to attend on Facebook, failing to show up for a restaurant reservation is a pretty big deal—to the restaurants involved, at least. An article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal details the lengths some restaurateurs are going to in a bid to discourage people from skipping out on their reservations. Some spots now require anyone booking a table to provide their credit card number, while others (e.g. Noma, the Best Restaurant in the World) will flip you off over the Internet if you no-show. In Australia, some owners are even taking to Twitter-based naming and shaming. And then there’s Next in Chicago, where customers have to buy a ticket to land a table—it’s like the most fun part of eating out, combined with the least fun part of going to the movies. We called around to see how Toronto restaurants were dealing with the latest epidemic of bad dining etiquette.

Charlotte Burton, Origin’s events coordinator, told us that the restaurant had four parties no-show last Saturday—altogether, 14 guests (about 200 dined at the restaurant that night in total). Burton says that’s not unusual, but nowhere near as bad as New Year’s or Valentine’s Day, when people make several reservations and break all but one of them. Unless you’ve scheduled a large party (and signed the requisite contracts), Burton would just really like it if you would call ahead and let them know if you’re not going to show up. As for any Twitter shaming, don’t expect it from Origin: “We’re not going to name and shame people,” said Burton. “After all, it is just dinner.”

Khao San Road
While those 14 people were skipping out on Origin, a party of 10 was doing the same thing to the folks at Khao San Road. Co-owner Jeff Regular (who sounds infinitely patient on the phone) says he’ll try and keep a reserved table free from about 20 minutes before the party is scheduled to arrive, then hold it for 10 or 15 minutes after they’re due. But as you might expect, it’s hard to explain to a long line of hungry people that they can’t have the table that’s been sitting empty for half an hour. Regular says they get about three or four no-shows per week, and that they’re now leaning toward stopping reservations entirely. “We get as much flack for taking reservations as for not taking enough,” Regular said.

If you have a reservation at Canoe, expect someone to call you the day of to confirm the number of people in your party, check on any special requests and offer you directions. Jerrett Young, vice-president of operations at Oliver and Bonacini, says calling to confirm reservations keeps Canoe’s no-show rate very low. As for Twitter-based retaliation, Young was adamant: “We definitely are not going to spread nasty rumours about our guests.” What a relief.