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Cancelled reservations at the last minute


davecap
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Hey Joe Beef, what gives?

My wife and I went to Montreal this weekend with our three year old daughter for the Winter Snow Festival. We had a great time both Saturday and Sunday at the festival. I love Montreal, the people and the city are great. We had an awesome dinner as usual at Au Pied on Friday.

We had dinner reservations at Joe Beef on Saturday night for 7:30 pm. After a full day of fun in the snow, my daughter was getting pretty tired and we made the exectuve decision, no matter how much we wanted to eat at Joe Beef, that we should probably just get something quick and head back to the room. So I called Joe Beef to let them know we could not come. I called right at 7:30. I know the timing was not perfect, but I had to call anyway. A man answered the phone and I told him that unfortunately we had to cancel. He started giving me lip. He said "Why didn't you call me at 3 this afternoon?" I told him that we did not know at that time but that my 3 year old was exhausted and we could not come. Then the man on the phone said that he was going to take a $200 hit because we weren't coming. If the restaurant is as good as everyone claims, they should not have any problem filling our spot at the bar. If a walk-up comes, a restaurant has to be prepared.

My point in raising this is that I have never been treated that way by a restaurant. I would think that most people do not even call to cancel a reservation and I had the decency to call, even though I have no responsibility to do so. Customer service makes and breaks many businesses today and I think that customer service in the last few years has gone down the tubes. The man on the phone could have simply said "thanks for calling" Instead, now I will tell everyone who visists the city not to go there and when we return for vacation, we will certainly not go there.

Has anyone else been treated this way by other restaurants?

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Yeh, I dont know about this one.. Joe Beef is a real tiny place.. I dont know how many walk ins they would have.. I am assuming that Montreal is pretty cold this time of year and there are not too many people wandering around that part of town.. The guy on the phone when I went was really funny and immediately comfortable.. I asked him what the dress was like and he told me its nudist night.. Obviously he was joking.. But, I could see him getting pissed and telling you.. Honestly, it wasnt cool what you did and he told you.. That doesnt mean you are a horrible person but, at least you know for next time, cancelling a rezi hurts this place..

Edited by Daniel (log)
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There are many high end restaurants in NYC that take your credit card info and if you cancel at the last minute they will wham you. Joe Beef likely had to turn down a number of people who called earlier in the week or the same day because they were reserving that table for YOU!

Perhaps whoever answered the phone wasn't as diplomatic as he could have been but you must realize that your cancellation probably DID cost them $200.00 APDC is on a busy restaurant street and likely gets far more walk-in traffic than a destination spot such as Joe Beef.

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That was nasty. I have a three-year old and can understand how that can happen. And David McMillan -- one of th owners and quite possibly the guy on the phone -- has a toddler as well so he should be more understanding.

You know what I would have done in your case. I would have let the guy finish his rant, and then I would have lied and said: "I'm really sorry to cancel but we spent the day at the Winter Festival and my child has frostbite and is in the hospital right now having two fingers AMPUTATED."

Give back the guilt as good as you got.

Anyway, you have every right right to cancel your reservation.

They were wrong to lash out at you.

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I believed when I called it was Frederic Morin who took my reservation and he was by no means a professional maitre d' with a pleasant welcoming mannerism - but then again that is not his job and I would rather he be focusing on my food than on the reservation books. However, regardless of the night, the location, or the weather, chances are there was a walk-in to take your place with the reputation this little place has garnered. The night we went there was at least a dozen people turned away who were trying to walk in off the street to nab a table - someone got lucky on your night!

Unfortunately there is no excuse for the manner in which they handled your situation on the phone, but I have to say I wouldn't blacklist them entirely because you truly will be missing out on one of the best meals in Montreal. If you can put the incident aside now and in the future (because you don't want to harbor any ill will when you are seated as this will jade your real opinion of the meal), I suggest giving it another go.

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While I agree that either Fred or Dave might have been a little more polite when you called about your cancellation, I also see their point as well.

Yes, the place is busy and it is very hard to get a reservation but at that time of the year there would be no walk-in business at all.

Notre Dame West in the winter? Makes me shiver just thinking about it.

Fred and Dave are first and foremost, chefs. They are very nice guys but they are at heart chefs, not maitre d's.

They prep every night for the amount of reservations that they have and that's it.

So I can see how he would be a little annoyed at your cancellation and you can always get a babysitter.

Add the fact that as chefs, they will always be honest with you and sometimes brutally at that.

I do think that you should give them another chance as you would be missing out on one of the most innovative and refreshing culinary experiences in the whole country.

And as you didn't have a chance to actually dine there, I really don't think that you should be telling everyone not to go there just based on a bad phone experience.

I think you owe it to yourself most of all to give them another chance and I think you will be happy that you did.

Just my 2 cents

Keep on shucking

Oyster Guy

"Why then, the world is mine oyster, which I with sword, shall open."

William Shakespeare-The Merry Wives of Windsor

"An oyster is a French Kiss that goes all the way." Rodney Clark

"Oyster shuckers are the rock stars of the shellfish industry." Jason Woodside

"Obviously, if you don't love life, you can't enjoy an oyster."

Eleanor Clark

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Hey Joe Beef, what gives?

My point  in raising this is that I have never been treated that way by a restaurant.  I would think that most people do not even call to cancel a reservation and I had the decency to call, even though I have no responsibility to do so. 

I am not supporting the treatment you got, but the above statement is totally off base. What do you mean you have no responsibility to to call and cancel? The fact that many people engage in such behaviour does not make it acceptable and certainly does not make it honourable. You asked a busy establishment to hold a revenue generating table for you. You had a responsibility to call and you should have called the moment you knew you could not fulfil your commitment to the restaurant which was likely well in advance of the 7:30 rez. Your position is basically: I can screw you over by making a rez and not showing but, like most of us, you likely expect superlative service when you do choose to show up.

Whomever dealt with you should have been more tactful but your table in this very small restaurant represented a significant portion of their business and they overreacted. You however, underreacted from the point of view of your responsibility.

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I would also question your judgment in making a reservation with a three year old to begin at 7.30 PM. This would mean that the earliest you could expect to get out of there would be 9.00 PM, probably later.

You knew that you would be spending the day outdoors. If you had given it more thought, you would likely have surmised that your child would have little chance of being up, let alone being happy in a quality restaurant at 9.00 PM or later.

Dinner at 6.00 PM, if at all in a restaurant such as this would have been more appropriate to the situation.

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As a follow up to my previous post, having raised three grown children and now being involved with five grandchildren, there are three key rules that I've learned about dining with young children in non family style restaurants:

(1)Eat early.

(2)Tip generously.

(3)Refer to (1) and (2).

Otherwise, try to get a baby sitter or switch to a lesser dining environment.

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Hey Joe Beef, what gives?

If the restaurant is as good as everyone claims, they should not have any problem filling our spot at the bar.  If a walk-up comes, a restaurant has to be prepared. 

Last point because I dont want to think I am beating up on you or anything.. The place has great food, it is a little informal service wise but, that adds to the homey feel.. In the future, I believe the bar is high enough that it would be difficult for a three year old to eat at it. And what are the rules in Canada about children eating at a bar?

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I appreciate everyone's thoughts on this matter.

I am not supporting the treatment you got, but the above statement is totally off base. What do you mean you have no responsibility to to call and cancel? The fact that many people engage in such behaviour does not make it acceptable and certainly does not make it honourable. You asked a busy establishment to hold a revenue generating table for you. You had a responsibility to call and you should have called the moment you knew you could not fulfil your commitment to the restaurant which was likely well in advance of the 7:30 rez. Your position is basically: I can screw you over by making a rez and not showing but, like most of us, you likely expect superlative service when you do choose to show up.

Whomever dealt with you should have been more tactful but your table in this very small restaurant represented a significant portion of their business and they overreacted. You however, underreacted from the point of view of your responsibility.

Point well taken.

I would like to respond to a couple of the comments. If a chef opens a restaurant, he is no longer just a chef, but a businessperson who now wears many hats, and when that chef forgets about the other hats, I think this is a cause for the failure of many a restaurant. A chef can be idealistic about the food, but in order to make money and survive, a chef/owner has to worry about rent, insurance, servers, busboys, etc. and the person answering the phone.

We have travelled with our daughter extensively and she has done very well as far as touring and then being able to go to dinner with us, even after a full day. But on this occasion we thought better and decided to cancel. We had called the cab and we made the decision at the last minute not to go. We really did want to go as we had read so many good things on egullet and elsewhere, and Daniel seeing your pics and reading your review really made us want to go. I guess I should not be so absolute about not "ever" wanting to go there, but such an experience really leaves a sour taste in your mouth.

Thanks again for all your thoughts.

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So you were the no show... I couldn't understand why the table next to me was empty (I, btw, came up from NJ in the morning and had a 7pm rezzie there).

Being familiar with how small the place is, I can only assume you know how tough a cancellation like that would be for them - and a walk-in on a night like that at a place like that where everyone knows you have to reserve is highly unlikely. Sure, it would have been nice for you to have had a less agitated response from the restaurant, but if you want places like this to exist and be able to remain open, you also have to appreciate the truly delicate financial situation they juggle, as well. Personally, if it were me, I probably would have tried to compromise and asked if they could do some take-out for me and my family, instead. That would have been great for you - since you still would have gotten to semi-eat there, and it would have at least been something to help mitigate lost money for them. Just a thought.

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So you were the no show...  I couldn't understand why the table next to me was empty (I, btw, came up from NJ in the morning and had a 7pm rezzie there).

Being familiar with how small the place is, I can only assume you know how tough a cancellation like that would be for them - and a walk-in on a night like that at a place like that where everyone knows you have to reserve is highly unlikely.  Sure, it would have been nice for you to have had a less agitated response from the restaurant, but if you want places like this to exist and be able to remain open, you also have to appreciate the truly delicate financial situation they juggle, as well.  Personally, if it were me, I probably would have tried to compromise and asked if they could do some take-out for me and my family, instead.  That would have been great for you - since you still would have gotten to semi-eat there, and it would have at least been something to help mitigate lost money for them.  Just a thought.

I have been reading the responses to this story over the past couple of days, and I feel like I would have to add my two cents. First and foremost, we are in a service industry. Rudeness is not acceptable. That's it that's all. Secondly, it is not required of the customer to worry about the restaurant's finances. Cancellations, flooding, blackouts,etc. are all part of doing business. As businessmen, not only great chefs, we are supposed to be aware of this, and, should be able to see it as a cost of doing business.

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While it is nice to think that the customer is always right, the reality is that the customer is often wrong. While it might not be up to the customer to be responsible for the restaurants finances, the owners have to watch the bottom line.

Whether the person who answered the phone said "thank you for calling" or "screw you" the fact remains that the restaurant got screwed.

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So you were the no show...  I couldn't understand why the table next to me was empty (I, btw, came up from NJ in the morning and had a 7pm rezzie there).

Being familiar with how small the place is, I can only assume you know how tough a cancellation like that would be for them - and a walk-in on a night like that at a place like that where everyone knows you have to reserve is highly unlikely.  Sure, it would have been nice for you to have had a less agitated response from the restaurant, but if you want places like this to exist and be able to remain open, you also have to appreciate the truly delicate financial situation they juggle, as well.  Personally, if it were me, I probably would have tried to compromise and asked if they could do some take-out for me and my family, instead.  That would have been great for you - since you still would have gotten to semi-eat there, and it would have at least been something to help mitigate lost money for them.  Just a thought.

I have been reading the responses to this story over the past couple of days, and I feel like I would have to add my two cents. First and foremost, we are in a service industry. Rudeness is not acceptable. That's it that's all. Secondly, it is not required of the customer to worry about the restaurant's finances. Cancellations, flooding, blackouts,etc. are all part of doing business. As businessmen, not only great chefs, we are supposed to be aware of this, and, should be able to see it as a cost of doing business.

Maybe I missed the part where someone suggested the guest be worried about the restaurant's finances and I really don't think anyone suggested this.

The guest should however be concerned when his actions or inactions cause a restaurant problems, i.e. canceling their reservation at the very last moment.

This kind of behaviour is not welcome nor appreciated in any other type of business, why are you justifying it in this case?

The person makes it seem that he was doing the place a huge favour by calling at all.

If you make an appointment or reservation, it is YOUR responsibility to contact the people involved in enough time that they can make other arrangements, such as giving the time allotted to you to someone else.

I have taken attitude from doctor's and dentist's assistants when I have forgotten appointments. How is this industry any different?

And as we have only heard this one side of the story and not the other, how are we to know if this person himself wasn't rude on the phone as well?

There are always 3 sides to every story, my side, your side and the truth.

Keep on shucking

Oyster Guy

"Why then, the world is mine oyster, which I with sword, shall open."

William Shakespeare-The Merry Wives of Windsor

"An oyster is a French Kiss that goes all the way." Rodney Clark

"Oyster shuckers are the rock stars of the shellfish industry." Jason Woodside

"Obviously, if you don't love life, you can't enjoy an oyster."

Eleanor Clark

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And what are the rules in Canada about children eating at a bar?

Let me rephrase this for geo-social reasons: And what are the rules in Quebec about children eating at a bar?

Answer: None, we do not care, we do not worry about this and please remember to put a bit of water in that kid's wine...

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I empathize with the original poster bc it's shocking sometimes to have your best intentions received entirely differently than how you intended. But that being said, I also understand that - after you have not made other bookings/ turned others away, it's certainly frustrating and a waste to have a last minute cancellation. Certainly for a small and busy establishment, one cancellation is significant.

Essentially, there was no way for both parties to find a satisfactory outcome, at that time. It can be debated to no end, but ultimately neither party has their proverbial hands clean. Yes, it could have been more pleasant to cancel - but chances are, the cancellation could have been decided upon earlier, even if it was not.

That being said... I love Joe Beef - but I hate calling to make a reservation. It's worth it, without a doubt - but I hate it. lol ;-) Once there it's all fun and games and brilliant food.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Some of the stuff I am reading here is absolutely BIZARRE.

Things happen and reservations get cancelled. It's part of doing business.

If a restaurant can't handle the occasional cancellation then the owners should try a different profession.

A restaurant employee who lectures a person who calls to cancel a reservation is unacceptable and would be fired at once from my restaurant. A person who takes the time to make a reservation at your restaurant could very potentially be a repeat future client even if they have to cancel a reservation.

The ONLY acceptable thing for this employee to have done would be to say sorry you are not able to make it, perhaps we will see you sometime in the future.

Whining about the loss of the table and loss of revenue is of NO concern to the client and it is completely unprofessional to even mention it.

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Some of the stuff I am reading here is absolutely BIZARRE.

Things happen and reservations get cancelled. It's part of doing business.

If a restaurant can't handle the occasional cancellation then the owners should try a different profession.

A restaurant employee who lectures a person who calls to cancel a reservation is unacceptable and would be fired at once from my restaurant. A person who takes the time to make a reservation at your restaurant could very potentially be a repeat future client even if they have to cancel a reservation.

The ONLY acceptable thing for this employee to have done would be to say sorry you are not able to make it, perhaps we will see you sometime in the future.

Whining about the loss of the table and loss of revenue is of NO concern to the client and it is completely unprofessional to even mention it.

Finally, BRAVO

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I’m not in the business but I am a frequent client. Is it wise to aggressively put down a customer who cancels at the last minute? No, it’s not good business. The bite your tongue, “Thanks for calling, we hope to see you again soon.” approach is the smarter one. Yes cancellations are part of the game, but as far as I am concerned a potential customer who makes a reservation enters into a contract with the establishment. The empty table and loss of business caused by late cancellations drives up an operator’s cost; a cost that he has to recover by charging me more. Anybody who casually makes a restaurant reservation and then cancels for no good reason especially at the last minute or worse still, doesn’t bother to call, is an inconsiderate, self centered, prick!

This subject began debate as a result of a couple whose child was tired and not up to going out to the restaurant after a day of fun outdoors; pretty innocent really. However if that same person had tickets to a kids’ show where the tickets were purchased in advance the approach at some point in the day would likely have been “We’d better get back to the hotel for some quiet time; we’ve got a show tonight.” Instead, with the rules of engagement skewed squarely in favour of the customer the attitude is more of a “No skin off our ass, screw the restaurant.”

I would frankly be in favour of a ‘refundable deposit per head’. Even at say $10/head people would take their obligation more seriously. It won’t happen, as there is too much competition and the industry so fragmented that it would be virtually impossible to develop a consistent approach. Joe Beef though might be one of the few Montreal restos that could pull it off.

Edited by gruyere (log)
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The child was three years old. The child was tired. The child's needs come first. Between the clients and the restaurant, no contract existed that would be recognized by any nation except the imagination. The restaurant worker did wrong and the owners should apologize.

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Let's remember that the original poster, acting as if he was doing the restaurant a favor, said he called right at the time of his reservation. What good does that do a place like this? None!

This subject began debate as a result of a couple whose child was tired and not up to going out to the restaurant after a day of fun outdoors; pretty innocent really. However if that same person had tickets to a kids’ show where the tickets were purchased in advance the approach at some point in the day would likely have been “We’d better get back to the hotel for some quiet time; we’ve got a show tonight.” Instead, with the rules of engagement skewed squarely in favour of the customer the attitude is more of a “No skin off our ass, screw the restaurant.

AMEN!

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