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Cancelled reservations at the last minute


davecap
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The original poster was being courteous by calling the restaurant. Canceled reservations are par for the course if one is in the restaurant business. They are not the customer's problem. The only professional response on the restaurant's part was to be courteous back. This discussion seems to be getting nowhere with both sides entrenched. I've stated my views of the situation and I will not be posting further on this topic. I have to say though that the level of professionalism, graciousness and courtesy that I've experienced eating out in Montreal has always been head and shoulders above what I've had to put up with in the States, which makes the behavior of the worker at Joe Beef and some of the comments posted on this board all the more baffling to me.

Edited by rcianci (log)
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^ agreed.
is an inconsiderate, self centered, prick!

gee, overreact much?

Let me try to put my position in perspective. First of all Davecap, the original poster, has reacted to criticism in this thread in a very honourable way. I felt he was wrong in how he handled the situation and I let him know. At some point up-thread he said “point well taken.” His situation is one that is probably in the grey area of what is acceptable. My point in further highlighting his situation was to illustrate that we should consider our making a reservation as a sort of moral contract and govern ourselves accordingly.

I know several people in the business, many of whom struggle every day to make ends meet and who work hard to pay their staff a reasonable wage with at least some sort of meagre benefits. It pisses me off when people treat them and their businesses with servitude and consider their station in life to be at or near the bottom rung of the ladder.

By way of example I would like to detail an experience that I had about a year ago:

My wife and I were meeting another couple for drinks and dinner. We had agreed to meet at a certain bar and go to the restaurant from there. I had previously suggested to ‘Bill’ that he make the reservation and that his choice would be fine. “Just tell us where to meet and we’ll be there.” After arriving at the bar I asked him where we were going to eat. He said “I know you’re into the food side of life so I made a reservation at restaurant X and restaurant Y. Let’s decide where to go. I replied “Our reservation is in less than an hour which one did you cancel?” He said “Oh don’t worry. I didn’t cancel either; people do this all the time; they’re used to it.” I pulled out my phone and said “It’s Friday night; both of these places are probably fully booked. Where are we going, I’m cancelling one of these reservations.” He said “I wouldn’t call now they’re not going to be very happy with us.” I said “You know Bill you’re an inconsiderate, self centred f#^king prick.” I meant it then and I mean it now. If it’s overreaction from some points of view so be it. No apologies from here!

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Gruyere,

You are so very right. Its just wrong. Going back to the original poster, I wonder why they waited until the exact time of the reservation to make the cancellation. Surely they knew an hour before that the child was tired. In order to get to the restaurant at the correct time, they probably would have had to leave at least thirty minutes before. Why didn't he cancel at that time. At least then, the restaurant might have had a slight chance of filling the seats. If they call at the reserved time, then they are late.

Porkpa

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Its an age old problem in the service industry where there's competition. Its why doctors and dentists charge no show fees (as do some restos). The client has no commitment when making a reservation, the risk is entirely on the resto.

In any situation, rudeness should not be tolerated. The weight of the agreement between client and resto was felt by the OP, as he did call (albeit at the last minute, there was an effort) to allay some of the guilt. That being said, if a resto is out of the way and known to not have any space, that is the business model of the resto and the risk of reservation cancellation should be accounted for.

It sucks to lose money on a table and chronic abuse of the system leads to the inevitable double bookings and rushed seatings which makes everyone suffer. But that's why insurance is so high, cameras are everywhere and the wait time at the doctor's are so long.

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Let me state this again.

If the loss of an occasional table is such a problem for these people that it justifies a staff member being rude then they should not be in the business. Period.

If they are not competant enough to formulate a business plan, IE Not overbook the restaurant to the point where cancellations hurt sales, then they should try something new.

Any decent restaurant would leave room for walk ins. That way if there is a cancellation you know that most likely there will be someone in line to fill that table. If they book 100% then that is their problem and it is a poor business plan.

I have been in this business for 25 years and NEVER have I felt it necessary to offend a client.

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I see two over-reactions.

The guy who took the cancellation,

and the guy who called it in.

The guy who took the call should have had better manners.

The guy who cancelled, should take things in perspective. One rude guy on the phone, during a major festival, is no reason to badmouth a restaurant to all your friends and to vow never to go back.

editted to add: at least, not a restaurant that was worth long-distance reservations in the first place.

My mean streak wishes the OP had offered the guy on the phone a choice: We no-show, or we bring our normally well behaved kid who is currently in meltdown with no sign of it abating soon.

Edited by Kouign Aman (log)

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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.

So people with kids have a right to cancel at the last minute, guilt-free? Not sure I agree with that one...while canceling was probably the right decision for davecap's family, that doesn't mean it doesn't affect others.

That said, the person on the phone really should have been more pleasant. A gentle reminder that canceling at the last minute hurts business and that five hours' notice is greatly appreciated? Fine.

Rudeness in the hospitality industry? Eh, not so much.

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Not to excuse the gentleman on the phone but it's almost a guarantee that at a popular restaurant on a busy night he'd had more than a couple "I know it's the last minute but have you had any cancellations?" calls. Turning down potential paying customers, only to lose a table at the last minute in (it appears) a small place has to hurt. Not that yelling is an appropriate response.

I'm a little in awe of the posters who've gone years and decades without losing their temper, and who have the perfect restaurant business plan -- the one where you're able to manage everything from the space you rent to the how the weather affects your mid-week walk-in revenue -- so that losing revenue on a big night doesn't hurt.

Being imperfect myself, however, I'm not inclined to run the guy out of town for the occasional outburst -- especially when he has a right to be more than a little pissed.

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Last minute cancellations for small places are a big kick in the bollocks, it hurts.BUT ,"thanks for letting us know" is the only answer.You then return to the kitchen and curse the KP, Waitress and the wall and take it out on them.

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I have been in this business for 25 years and NEVER have I felt it necessary to offend a client.

I'v been at it for 20+ years and i have offended some. :biggrin:

We gotta have SOME fun right?

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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None of the reasons anyone has given here for the rude manners on the telephone is justification for the rudeness.

This is the restaurant business. It is a SERVICE business. If you do not want to succeed, have at those no shows, have at the customers who you don't care for, the complainers, the snooty, the not snooty enough, the rude, etc. Be rude with impunity, if you are a dilettante, or are wealthy and don't need business, or are running your business as a tax write off.

HOWEVER, no matter who is right or wrong, if you want to stay in business for the long haul, you must always be polite. ALWAYS. Even when the customer is already there, already causing trouble, and the police are dispatched. YOU remain polite. It is part of the job. A SERVICE job.

So, is it ideal to cancel at the last moment? No.

Is it proper to be scolded in any way by the restaurant? No.

Sorry, but the restaurant flunked this time, and they are the ones in business, not the client. He doesn't get graded. He is the client. The client is not under examination.

edited: restaurnut/restauRANT! LOL

Edited by Rebecca263 (log)

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Joe's Beef should be happy that you called. everyone knows that cancelations hurt restaurants (just as they hurt accountants and many other businesses). stating as much over the phone, or here, is pointless.

"Thanks for calling. We hope to see you soon. I hope your mom didn't die or something."

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So people with kids have a right to cancel at the last minute, guilt-free? Not sure I agree with that one...while canceling was probably the right decision for davecap's family, that doesn't mean it doesn't affect others.

No Megan, I just thought that the owner, himself a father of a young child, might be sympatheitc to their problem.

I have spoken to the owner a few times about this since this thread got going, and he says the facts stated up top were not quite as told.

Anyway, Joe Beef is a, shall we say, bit of a different restaurant. The chefs who run the place are great guys, but they definitely have strong personalities. Things like this happen at Joe Beef, which is kind of what makes the place special. They have a certain soup nazi appeal. They made it very clear when they opened that the restaurant is very small and customers who have to play by their rules. It's not as bad as it sounds (Joe Beef is a terrific restaurant) but these fellows just don't take stuff like this lying down. I still think it was bad form, but I'm not at all surprised. Weird and wonderful things happen at Joe Beef. You have to take the bad with the good.

The Cheesecake Factory it's not.

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I see two over-reactions.

The guy who took the cancellation,

and the guy who called it in.

The guy who took the call should have had better manners.

The guy who cancelled, should take things in perspective. One rude guy on the phone, during a major festival, is no reason to badmouth a restaurant to all your friends and to vow never to go back.

editted to add:  at least, not a restaurant that was worth long-distance reservations in the first place.

My mean streak wishes the OP had offered the guy on the phone a choice: We no-show, or we bring our normally well behaved kid who is currently in meltdown with no sign of it abating soon.

That's what I can't get over.

Joe Beef is tiny.

Who the hell would want a tired, cranky three year old in that dining room?

Edited by rcianci (log)
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So people with kids have a right to cancel at the last minute, guilt-free? Not sure I agree with that one...while canceling was probably the right decision for davecap's family, that doesn't mean it doesn't affect others.

No Megan, I just thought that the owner, himself a father of a young child, might be sympatheitc to their problem.

I have spoken to the owner a few times about this since this thread got going, and he says the facts stated up top were not quite as told.

Anyway, Joe Beef is a, shall we say, bit of a different restaurant. The chefs who run the place are great guys, but they definitely have strong personalities. Things like this happen at Joe Beef, which is kind of what makes the place special. They have a certain soup nazi appeal. They made it very clear when they opened that the restaurant is very small and customers who have to play by their rules. It's not as bad as it sounds (Joe Beef is a terrific restaurant) but these fellows just don't take stuff like this lying down. I still think it was bad form, but I'm not at all surprised. Weird and wonderful things happen at Joe Beef. You have to take the bad with the good.

The Cheesecake Factory it's not.

Yeah, OK. Good point, Lesley.

Edited by rcianci (log)
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I pretty much think a customer has a right to cancel at any time he feels he should. And s/he shouldn't have to give any explanations. It's the nice thing to do... customers feel bad about not being able to go and they feel compelled to tell the whole story. How many times they don't even call? Those are the ones one could be rude to. It's unfair for the customer to be on the receiving end of the rudeness when they were considerate enough to call.

Now, I understand that this is bad for a small restaurant. I own a small restuarant, and when we have a bad day (a lot of empty tables) it hurts us. I know that I do it too (and it's a mistake): I already count the money I don't have whenever a reservation is made. However, how could I get mad at somebody for calling? Right now, I have no desire to go to Joe Beef. Do you, Davecap? You've told us what happened, have you told any other of your friends? Have thy told anybody else? How about any of us egulleters? How many of those will choose not to go to Joe Beef?

So, IMO, although it would seem that the chefs there don't care what we think, they complained over a $200 loss, but now they might have lost a lot of potential customers. Good thing the place is tiny,

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As has been discussed, there are restaurants that take CC numbers and charge a fee, like $25, for last-minute cancellations and no shows. Since it's been said repeatedly that Joe Beef is quirky and 'different,' and "tiny" (so the loss of one table's revenue matters a great deal more than it does to a large chain) it sounds to me like it's a great candidate for that policy.

Also, since the food's so good and it's an 'experience,' such a policy probably would not adversely affect business. In fact, it might add to the air of exclusivity, and enhance it.

As for which of us will "choose not to go to Joe Beef," sign me up on the list of folks that previously hadn't heard of it, but now can't wait to give it a try. Not because they were rude, but because of other comments in the thread. Sometimes even bad publicity works if it gets your name out.

Also sign me up on the list of folks that wish parents of three-year-olds would get a sitter (like I did) before going to dinner at excellent, small and intimate fine-dining restaurants.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

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Put me in the camp with the folks who see two examples of bad behavoir:

(1) I almost don't even know where to start with the 3-year old issues. I'm not sure that it's appropriate to take a 3-year old to a fine dining establishment to begin with, as it is the truly rare 3-year old who can manage that level of social behavoir, especially at the end of a tiring day. I don't think that it's fair to anyone -- the child, the restaurant staff, or potential customers in the restaurant. I'd recommend a babysitter, a different type of restaurant, or if one really wants to eat at a certain fine dining establishment, maybe lunch or a very early dinner would make more sense.

If we set aside this issue, that still leaves us with parents who wore their child out, knowing that they had dinner reservations later in the day, and then waited until the time of the reservation to notice that their child was tired and called the restaurant. As someone mentioned above, would the parents have done the same if they had purchased tickets for a show, or might they have thought ahead and planned a bit better; at the very least, it must have been obvious at some point earlier than the time of the reservation that the child wouldn't be up for it. So, yeah, to my mind it was poor behavoir to call and cancel at the last second.

(2) That said, the person at the restaurant had no reason to react as he did. Sure, the customer stiffed them, but chewing out customers is simply no way to run a business. It's not only rude, it's also unprofessional.

OK, there's my two cents...

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What! Joe Beef is fine dining. And the food is quite something.

This restaurant is about as far from the usual hi-my-name-is-Steve-and-I'll-be-your-waiter-tonight dining as I've ever experienced. And nobody in town has better oysters.

Edited by Lesley C (log)
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Moderator's Note: There are threads devoted to children in restaurants. Though to a certain extent, the issue is pertinent to this topic, I would ask that the topic not devolve into another debate on whether or not children belong in better restaurants. Please use those other topics for that.

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What! Joe Beef is fine dining. And the food is quite something.

This restaurant is about as far from the usual hi-my-name-is-Steve-and-I'll-be-your-waiter-tonight dining as I've ever experienced. And nobody in town has better oysters.

You are so right about the oysters!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Edited by Oyster Guy (log)

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I couldn't agree more Lesley. I'm heading there on Saturday. Do you think I would endure any bodily harm if I called to cancel my reservation at the last minute and then entered the restaurant with a "Just kidding!!!"? Probably a tad dangerous I suppose.

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