Over the years I’ve written about the problem of no-shows and I can only imagine how frustrating it must be from your perspective. As a customer, there’s nothing more irritating than waiting for a table in a restaurant that has several empty tables that are being held for reservations that never arrive. It’s a tough spot to be in when you’re a restaurant operator because many of your customers don’t understand why they’re not being seated.
Also frustrating is what I experienced several weeks back in a Washington DC restaurant where I had an 8:30 p.m. reservation on a Saturday night. The place was a madhouse; a perfect storm of every customer with reservations showing up, along with a bunch of walk-ins. Clearly, this restaurant has had issues with no-shows in the past and way overbooked the restaurant. How do I know this? Because after waiting and drinking patiently at the bar for an hour-and-a-half, the restaurant was no closer to seating my three companions and me.
There is good news, though: I got a call from the hostess at 11:30 p.m. informing me that my table was ready. Wow! It takes a lot of nerve to call a customer three hours after a reservation to let them know a table is ready. And at 11:30 p.m.! By the way, there was no apology or explanation left on my voicemail. It was so matter of fact. Needless to say, we left the restaurant around 10 and were able to find a table at a nearby restaurant. That’s more good news: if you can hold on to a customer until 10 p.m. and still not seat them, they can at least have an easier time finding a table elsewhere.
There are so many damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t scenarios in restaurant land. Saturday nights are big and you can’t afford no-shows and empty seats. On the other hand, I wonder how much damage overbooking caused? I’m sure the restaurant in question has been checked off the must-go list of several customers with reservations who were never seated.
Also, I can’t help but think that this restaurant didn’t just get automatically popular. It’s not a new restaurant. It’s not a restaurant that’s tied to a theater or sports arena where attendance surges on the night of events. It appears someone was clearly overzealous with overbooking. I don’t know. You probably know better what may have happened behind the scenes.
One last point before I ask you to weigh in: In a scenario like this one, shouldn’t a restaurant make amends? For all those who made reservations and got burned, shouldn’t there be some follow-up of some kind from the restaurant?At the least a note from management apologizing and inviting the customer back for a free drink? I heard nothing from the place.
My bitching and moaning won’t help, but your thoughts on how to handle the difficulty of no-shows and botched reservations would. What are your thoughts about the scenario I described and how do you handle such matters? Please email me at [email protected].