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How operators deal with the no-show problem

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In the August issue, editor Michael Sanson wrote about how careless customers can be with honoring reservations and how one L.A. restaurateur went on Twitter to identify customers who failed to honor reservations at his restaurant. Sanson wanted to know how you deal with no-shows. Here are some responses.

As a restaurateur for the last 25 years, I began to see the greatest disrespect for reservations occur within the last five.Ten years ago, you could predict with great accuracy who was dining with you, for how long (we allowed two hours for reservations) and also the flow of the kitchen on any particular evening. After several years of no-shows, cancellations and changes in party sizes, we adopted a no-reservation policy. If a guest wishes to dine at any of our restaurants seven nights a week, they’re welcome to join us at any time. What we’ve found is that we can accommodate many more diners by not holding tables for a reservation that may or may not show up.

Ross Morris, Jr.  
Trattoria Piatto
Cafe Bruges
Helena’s Chocolate Cafe & Creperie
Carlisle, PA

Here’s one way to deal with no-shows, though few could get away with it. At Trois Mec, a French mashup from the Los Angeles all-star team of Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, meals must be purchased in advance off Trois Mec’s website. It’s a tough ticket to score (just 26 seats), and the nightly prix fixe amounts to nearly $100 a head, including tip, but excluding alcohol.

Andrea Lita Rademan
Food & Wine Writer/Publicist
Beverly Hills, CA
We have done away with the word “reservation” at our restaurants, and have moved to the phrase “call-ahead seating.” I have trained my staff to say “this will shorten your wait time if we are busy when you arrive” and “we ask that at least one of your party members shows up at least 10 minutes early, to ensure faster seating.” This change in policy has taken our stress level down tremendously, and seldom does a party have to wait to be seated. We also ask for a contact name and number so we can reach them if need be.

Frank Shreffler
Regional Manager
Apple Peddler Restaurants
4 units in Oregon, 1 in Crescent City, CA

On another note: It’s actually difficult for me to eat out out when I notice managers conversing socially more with their staff than customers. It also drives me crazy when I see waiters touching their face or hair and their lack of attention to detail. If owners and managers don’t get their business in order they will give us all a bad reputation and will give banks more reasons not to loan to restaurants.  

Matt Frey
Bub’s Burgers & Ice Cream
Carmel, Bloomington, Zionsville, IN
Bub’s Café
Carmel, IN

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