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René Redzepi reignites restaurant no-shows debate

5 commentsBy Luke Nicholls , 11-May-2012

Related topics: Business, Venues, People, Legislation, Restaurant Trends, Restaurants

Following last month’s restaurant no-shows podcast and follow-up news article, Noma's René Redzepi has told BigHospitality that it is still a ‘mega problem’ for the industry, and that diners should ‘respect a restaurant reservation like a trip to the dentist’.

René Redzepi, chef and co-owner of Noma, believes restaurant no-shows are still a 'mega problem' for the industry

René Redzepi, chef and co-owner of Noma, believes restaurant no-shows are still a 'mega problem' for the industry

Despite being crowned the World’s Best Restaurant for the third year running, Danish restaurant Noma experiences an average of three no-shows every week. The champion of Nordic cuisine was quick to point out the financial damage that fickle diners can cause.

“It’s a mega problem in our trade,” said Redzepi. “If a customer has a booking at 8pm, they shouldn’t be allowed to just call at 8:05pm and say they can’t make it, because the restaurant then can’t fill up that space - it can cost thousands of pounds in revenue.”

When a group booking of six people recently failed to show up to a booking at his restaurant, Redzepi vented his frustration on his Twitter account, posting: 'And now a message from the Noma staff: to the people of two different no-show tables last night…up yours!'

Increasing prices

Despite his frustration, Redzepi admits there is no quick fix to restaurant no-shows, revealing that he is restricted in the options he has to deal with the problem

“We simply can’t deal with the email correspondence it takes if we were to get the credit card details from everybody,” he added. Once you take any details, you basically have to sign a contract with the diner – we can’t just take their credit card details over the phone in Denmark, that’s against the law.

“At the moment, we take details for booking of five people or more. But if we did that with all bookings, it would probably require us to hire another couple of people to manage the reservations, which in turn would mean an increase in the price and I don’t want to have to do that - the only time I’d raise the price is if we’re adding value to the menu.

“For me, the best solution is a bit of a dream and that dream is that diners will one day respect a restaurant reservation like a trip to the dentist. Whether it is for a curry house, or a high-end restaurant - call and cancel, and call in good time.”

'Unforgivable'

Redzepi’s dream is the same for many restaurateurs here in the UK. In last month’s podcast , Malcom John – chef and owner of five restaurants in South East London – said: “We need to get it into the mind-set of the customers that when they reserve a table at the restaurant, they’re forming an alliance with that restaurant.

“If you book a table with me, I provide a guarantee that I will not sell that table onto somebody else. Equally, I’d expect you to turn up. If you cancel the table, that’s fine as I can then re-sell that spot – but not to show up is just unforgiveable.”

Will Holland, chef-patron of La Becasse in Ludlow, added: “When I book a flight, I know that I have to pay full in advance and if I miss my flight then I lose my money. If that principle becomes the norm for the public; if they don’t turn up to a table reservation, then they’ve lost their money, then I don’t think there would be any problem.

“It’s down to restaurants’ company policies just being a little bit more strict and looking after themselves.”

How strict can you be?

Many of the UK’s high-end restaurants, which of course face greater financial implications if diners don’t show up, will now take a deposit or credit card details for large groups and, in some cases, all bookings.

  • Tom Aikens Restaurant in Chelsea takes card details for every booking, with a £50 charge for failure to show up or any cancellation made within 48 hours.
  • Le Gavroche has no cancellation policy for small parties. The restaurant requires a deposit of £40 per person for lunch and £60 for dinner to secure reservations for tables of six or more people. The deposit is then non-refundable if the table is cancelled less than 72 hours before the booking.
  • The Ivy doesn’t take deposits from any booking. Customers are asked for credit card details upon registering with the restaurant and will only be charged for a no-show or ‘unreasonable cancellation’ within 24 hours.

It is important to note that when taking any form of deposit or credit card details for a restaurant booking, you must be PCI compliant to avoid facing heavy fines. This means not writing any details down and making sure they are securely stored. The full list of PCI guidelines can be viewed here.

Do you agree with Redzepi’s view? What do you think is the most effective way of dealing with restaurant no-shows? Leave your comments below or get in touch with us via Facebook and Twitter to let us know your thoughts.

5 comments (Comments are now closed)

Take a Deposit

Taking a deposit is completely in order, adding to the aura and respectability of the establishment.

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Posted by Denise Shamro
25 May 2012 | 03h05

Take a deposit

Taking a deposit would not be out of order and I don't see why anyone would not find that perfectly agreeable. It adds to the value of the meal if one has to respect the restaurant establishment.

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Posted by Denise Shamro
25 May 2012 | 02h58

General lack of respect for all appointments

I am a doctor. Three of six patients scheduled weeks in advance for necessary medical procedures did not show up yesterday. Thousands of dollars in revenue lost. Typically no-show is in the 10-20%. The cost is passed on to the customers who do show up and adds to the overall cost of medical care.

This is a new phenomenon. May be due to the depersonalization of online scheduling, automated phone systems and general change in culture.

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Posted by Jim
15 May 2012 | 13h36

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