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lizziee

Multiple Reservations

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I agree that a certain amount of leeway is to be expected.  15 minutes seems reasonable.  Longer delays and lost reservations are not, and in a situation in which a customer has guaranteed their reservation with a credit card, I think the restaurant owes something to the customer, just as the customer would owe something to the restaurant if they didn't show up.

What jordyn said.

A fifteen-minute wait is just a fifteen-minute wait no matter which side you're on, and shouldn't be an evening-ruiner either way. No, I was really referring to either the infamous "we've lost your reservation" (in which case you should get your meals comped if you stay or get cash to eat down the block) or the "please wait in our bar for an hour and buy our overpriced drinks" (in which case you should at least get the drinks for free for as long as they make you wait). That's the restaurant's down side for having a policy of charging your card if you're the irresponsible one. And I'm only talking about places that charge your credit card if you don't show. They must hold themselves to a higher standard if they are going to hold you to one.

If you're a no-show, they're out the money they would've made on your table. If they screw up, you've made reservations and plans for the evening and coordinated with your friends and then had your plans ruined. Why shouldn't the restaurant be liable for their actions if they expect you to be liable for yours?

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If you're a no-show, they're out the money they would've made on your table. If they screw up, you've made reservations and plans for the evening and coordinated with your friends and then had your plans ruined. Why shouldn't the restaurant be liable for their actions if they expect you to be liable for yours?

Deacon -

this is the airline model. if you have a ticket, and you're there at the appointed time, they MUST fly you, or comp you. it's a good model.

Small hotels do that all the time. You get charged now for your October stay. They get the float. You cancel 60+ days, you get a 90% refund.

I wonder if a place would try that routine, perhaps with a 2 day threshold? Perhaps the French Laundry or Daniel? Reserve now, we charge your card $100 as a "gift certificate" or such. We apply it to your visit, and we sell just enough tables to seat those customers.


Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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Restaurants are going to have to develop their own model, one that balances economic viability, consumer expectations, and the unique structure of a restaurant reservations system. Bits and pieces can be borrowed from airlines, hotels, etc., but the issues are not identical. In any event, the current system doesn't seem to make any attempt to maximize satisfaction and encourages exactly the kind of poor behaviors that feed the cycle -- it has only inertia to support it.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Again, while there may not be a formal contract between restaurant and diner ( althougn in London, that is happening now in some places - MPW hang your head in shame ) there is a definite understanding

The restaurant should have the table ready at the agreed time ( or comp a drink if it is not free in an acceptable time after the booking ) If they have stated a time for which the table can be occupied, they cannot rush the diner through the meal.

The diner on the other hand, has the obigation to turn up when they have said they would and leave the table by the agreed time ( if they have accepted a booking on that basis

I have no problem giving my credit card details to any restaurant for which I have made a booking. I often make multiple bookings on any given evening ( up to three or four places ) and always call back the ones I am not going to use 48-24hrs before the date in question.

If I did not call them back, I think I would be a) Exceptionally bad mannered, b) have no right to complain when my credit card was charged.

I believe that the whole notion of charging for no-shows is discretionary and I have had many charges waived when I have had to cancel at late or no notice ( due to illness or, godammit, being stood up - NEVER TO YOU SIMON SURELY I hear you gasp )

Charging for no shows is the direct result of the ill manners of diners. If people have bought a theatre ticket or a cinema ticket or a ticket for a sporting event and don't go, they can't claim their money back. The fact that you don't pay for a meal until after you go seems to make people think it does not matter if they show up or not. Perhaps restaurants could charge a deposit of 50% of the cost of a meal for the table with the balance to be paid on completion of the meal or the deposit to returned if cancellation is made within reasonable time or for a reason on a specified list

S

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After thinking about if for an entire day, I have concluded that this is an non-issue providing a diner calls a restaurant in time for them to rebook the table. In most restaurants, that usually means between 3:00-6:00pm the night of the reservation. I analyze it the following way. If a restaurant is so in demand, they will probably easily resell that table. Either to someone on a wait list, a random caller or even a walk-in. And if it wasn't in demand to begin with, and they wouldn't have sold the table anyway, there was nothing to lose to begin with. And I believe that this system works for most restaurants and because of it, they all have loose reservation policies. But I think this is different then the category of no-shows. I don't see what multiple reservations has to do with no-shows? You can have but one reservation and not show.

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Thinking about it for a whole thirty seconds, I would imagine the argument would be that if one was to book a number of places, there is a distinct possibility that one would not call to cancel the ones not chosen given the track record of many restaurants

In a perfect world, people would of course cancel, but in reality most people ( or many people at least ) do not have the manners to do so

That being the case the notion of no shows and multiple bookings become linked. That is not the same as saying that all people who multi book will not cancel the other places when they make their choice or indeed that someone who has just booked the one place will show up


Edited by Simon Majumdar (log)

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I don't know. I think that as Fat Guy has written, restaurants offer a reservations policy that is so loose that to apply a certain level of specificity to it seems awkward. You are going to have a hard time convincing me that if I book 100 restaurants on the same evening, the 99 I don't eat at suffer a hardship if I notify them in a way that easily allows them to resell the table. I mean that is the system they offer. For diners to impose additional morality to it seems to be taking it too far, unless you are talking about no-shows which is about being rude. I'm not getting the connection that says, multiple bookings increase whether people will be rude or not. Forgetful possibly, but I think being rude is entirely different.

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There's only one additional ethical criterion I think should be imposed on relationships of this nature, and that criterion is what in the law of contracts is typically referred to as "good faith." I might be receptive to an argument that taking out 100 free options is in bad faith. But taking out a handful of options and following the offered cancellation policy? That strikes me as good faith or at least ethically neutral. I think multiple reservations are a disaster when viewed from a macro perspective, but if that's the case the restaurants -- who control supply -- are the ones who need to do something about it, for the sake of themselves and their customers. That's why this whole thing is so messed up: both the restaurants and the customers would in the end benefit from an overhaul of the system. Properly administered, a more intelligent system could 1) give restaurants more predictability, 2) make reservations easier to get, and 3) ensure that reservations are honored on time. The current system virtually guarantees the opposite outcome on all three points.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The system will never change until the public squarely backs the restaurant industry by tacitly approving of credit card guarantees. There is an incredible amount of reluctance for many to give their credit card number to guarantee a table. This is not so in other related industries. It's unjustified but entrenched behavior on the part of the public. If guarantees were SOP, the no show problem and the resulting overbooking and waiting for tables would be minimized.

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a more intelligent system

what would be the procedure for securing a reso at FG's restaurant?

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I might be receptive to an argument that taking out 100 free options is in bad faith.

What if I'm the type who has a hard time making decisions?

Seriously though, the good faith/bad faith issue revolves around whether you intend to use the reservations or not and 100 can't possibly be in that category. But I can remember an example where I held 5 reservations on the same night. It was for a dinner where I had various people coming in from out of town and I couldn't convene a conversation among them to decide where everyone wanted to eat. So I had reservations at all the top places. Jean-Georges, Bouley etc. But two weeks beforehand we made a decision and I cancelled the losers. Or here is a typical one among travellers to France. You plan your trip so that when you are in Paris your last night is booked at a temple of gastronomy. But you also know that it is the last night of a 2 week long gastronnomic tour and by the last night you might have food coming out of your ears. So you also reserve a simple bistro for the same night. I mean I've done this myself. I don't see what is wrong with any of this since this is what the restaurants offer.

Restaurants need to be dilligent in confirming tables the day of the reservation. Since most of them do not have a system to penalize diners if they don't show, it behooves them to track you down and to confirm. Not that diners don't have the obligation to cancel if they don't intend to show. Not on moral grounds, just simple common courtesy. But if a restaurant wants to guarantee that the table is sold, they should pick up the phone.


Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)

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As it is the "Hospitality" industry, i'm loathed to take credit card details from customers.It gives the impression that we feel they might not show up, not the best way to greet guests IMHO.Why punish the majority for the sins of a few rude people??

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Theoretically you would be benefitting everyone by getting a guarantee -- your customers would not have to wait for a table because you had to overbook by 25% on a Sat. night and miraculously, everyone showed up. Unless of course this is not a problem with your particular establishment, then it's moot.

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Basil: Hotels are in the hospitality industry. They are the very definition of that industry. Yet nobody considers them inhospitable for requiring a credit-card number for reservation confirmation. The restaurants need to get together and make a decision to zap customers in a unified front -- everybody implements a credit card policy together. A few babies will whine for awhile, then it will all die down and all will be happier with the improved state of affairs.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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As Fg says, an overhaul is both welcome and necessary. However, since many diners seem unable to self regulate their behaviour, restaurants are having to impose their own rather draconian measures.

There comes a point at which it is no longer possible for a restaurant to deal with no shows ( be they caused by multi booking ) and they have to start sending out contracts ( I can think of at least three places in London that fax you a contract to send back ) or taking CC numbers

It is as much down to the diner as it is to the restaurant to act in good faith.

The other side of the coin is the fact that many restaurants overbook deliberatley to cover for no shows which can lead to long waits at bars for a table that was booked well in advance

S

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Your right FG....but i work from my heart, more than my head :wink:

Glenn...yes a moot point as i don't over book my place

Simon...OH to have a bar for people to wait at!

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Glenn...yes a moot point as i don't over book my place

Simon...OH to have a bar for people to wait at!

The first point explains the second

S

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As FG has pointed out, a restaurant reservation is an option: it gives the customer the right but not the obligation to buy food. The "strike price" of the option is given on the restaurant menu. (I am setting aside here both the legal question as to whether a reservation is a contract and the moral issue about no-shows by customers or overbooking by restaurants).

The problem is that, unlike almost every other industry, the option is given at no cost. And therefore the system is inefficient and cumbersome. Customers and restaurateurs have become accustomed to it. And the industry therefore operates with a lot of waste (staff tied up dealing with reservations, no-shows, etc.) and consequently lower profits for most of its players.

Airlines charge for the option to abandon or change a reservation: the option price is the difference between the full fare and the economy fare. Imagine that, in order to secure a seat from London to Paris, you had to hang on the phone at 2 am, or know the pilot's brother-in-law, or have learned a secret phone number from an Internet bulletin board, or have flown that route so many times that the airline staff have come to know you. Or have slipped the ticket agent a large banknote on previous flights.

If the system is to be reformed, and I agree with FG that it should be, why stop at charging a deposit? For the most popular restaurants, perhaps options (reservations) could be traded. If you really wanted a reservation at the French Laundry, at short notice, you could pay more and get one. Restaurants, as the primary issuer of reservations, would charge the cost of a 3-course menu for the reservation, applying this to the final bill. Reservations could then be traded over the Internet.

Of course there would be the usual abuses: some entrepreneur would snap up all of the FL bookings for a month, cornering the market or creating a sort of Rao's in Napa Valley. The system should self-correct before too long. In the long run, restaurants and customers might both benefit: restaurateurs would have far more predictable demand, and customers would have a simple and rational system for securing reservations.


Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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Simon...OH to have a bar for people to wait at!

But I understood you had a loo for them to wait in. Not that I tried it when I was there ... I feel I missed out :shock:

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You may be on to something there Martin....

"good evening...i'm very sorry but your table for 6 is not quite ready , would you care to wait in the loo and read the walls?" :laugh:

Yes , you did miss out...next time round you can have the full tour

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The system will never change until the public squarely backs the restaurant industry by tacitly approving of credit card guarantees.

If the restaurant industry could focus for two seconds and create a collective plan of action in this regard, it could be done without any public backing at all. And I'm telling you, aside from a round of whiny complaints in the implementation phase, there's not going to be any serious customer resistance. What are people going to do? Not go out to eat? They'll get used to it quickly, just as they're accustomed to giving deposits and guarantees for hotel rooms, airline tickets, and everything else. Regulars will have their info on file and won't have to repeat it with every reservation. Newcomers will quickly learn this is the entry procedure at every restaurant that takes reservations. And too-generous restaurateurs like Basil will learn that you can be hospitable without having to act as though you're not running a business.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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If the restaurant industry could focus for two seconds and create a collective plan of action in this regard, it could be done without any public backing at all. [..]

I agree in principle. The Restaurant Association would be the likely party to unite restaurants in such an undertaking, but I have a feeling this has been tried. Ambiguity of the term restaurant industry aside, the implication that restaurants share a common problem and can and should unite to tackle the problem is not the reality. More popular/upscale restaurants have a much easier time getting a guaranteed reservation then less popular ones. They can more easily tell the customer who balks at giving his credit card info to go eat somewhere else. The majority of restaurants cannot afford to be so choosy. To take an extreme example, Daniel (I have no idea if they require a guarantee) has no motivation to join a crusade to change the system because they (probably) have no such problems.

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On occasion I will make multiple reservations but will always call well in advance to cancel. I work by appointment and no shows are the pits!!

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this is the airline model. if you have a ticket, and you're there at the appointed time, they MUST fly you, or comp you. it's a good model.

To continue the analogy, why not put into the listings of restaurants how many seats the restaurant has? Or more specifically, how many two-tops, how many four-tops, etc.? This would be the equivalent of knowing whether you are booking a flight on a DC-10 or a 747. There could even be seating diagrams published, just as there are seating diagrams published of plane layouts and of stadium seating for sports events, etc. This just serves to put more info, and therefore more power, into the hands of the consumer. . . .

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What are people going to do? Not go out to eat?

No, they'll just walk half a block to some place that doesn't ask for front money. Your argument especially doesn't wash in a place like NYC where the density of available restaurants is so great. It would be different in a town with only one restaurant--no competition.

And, yes, *I* can always stay home and eat a ham sandwich. I *can* take it or leave it, which gives me power over the situation.

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