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Credit card to hold reservations


PatDC
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You REALLY plan to show?  Really?

I'm sorry but  for me this is a ridiculous discussion.  You are saying that you may not go because of  this recent "requirement."  You are having a problem since it wasn't mentioned to you a month ago despite your husband recently bringing it up.

I was thinking out loud to myself in annoyance when I made the comment that sounded like I was saying I wouldn't go. I wasn't as indecisive as it may have sounded, just irked and getting more irked as I thought about it. That's why I turned the computer off shortly after that and didn't post any further last night. Writing that certainly did undercut my case, I'm sure.

FWIW, I show up on time to restaurants. I very rarely cancel reservations, and I actually cancel them. I don't just not show. I have trouble understanding the mindset of people who make reservations and don't follow through or who make multiple reservations for the same night, but I know that people in the restaurant business have to deal with that.

My hunch when I posted the thread was that people would tell me it was perfectly reasonable for a restaurant to want a credit card. I had been making that point to my husband, who was the one who answered the phone and was more bothered by it than I was. I was looking to bolster that position, I suppose, by asking opinions, and I appreciate people's responses. I'm usually the one who makes the reservations and have been asked for credit card number a few times before. He was unfamiliar with the practice. I was defending the restaurant to him on that point. My major peeve was the timing, and that was when he made the comment that the restaurant hadn't seemed to plan very well.

I almost didn't post the thread at all because I didn't want to create an uncomfortable situation since Tom and other people from Corduroy post here. (For all I know, the woman who called might even post here. I'm terrible with names or I'd remember who she was. She was quite courteous on the phone and was fine with my calling back and not giving the number on the spot. I didn't envy her the job of cold calling people for credit card numbers. It did seem like the problem must have been that I made my reservation before they adopted the policy and they were just realizing they had some names with no credit card numbers.)

I also considered raising the issue without naming the restaurant, but then I figured that people would want to know what restaurant it was, and there was no point in being coy. It really could have been pretty much any restaurant, though, on the general points.

What I didn't intend was to create drama or to have anyone call the restaurant and ask about it :shock:. I was just going to call the restaurant back today and give them the card number to confirm. Otherwise, I would have been calling today anyway to confirm the reservation, since I made it so long ago. I've been looking forward to going, my little fit of pique notwithstanding :wink:.

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I then scrutinzed all of our NYE reservations for missing credit card numbers and called the people that had not given them.  As I read that thread on Chowhound it brought back bad memories of too many no shows.  I've seen the no show rate get as high as 22% which is out of control for a resataurant that doesn't want to over book tables and act like an airline. I wish we could require a credit card number for all reservations. 

Corduroy charges $20 to your credit card if you don't show up. We ask that you call to cancel 2 days in advance but are very understanding if you have a good excuse later than that.

Thanks for the explanation, Tom. I appreciate it. As I said, I don't understand the mindset of the no-shows and multiple-bookers, but it's got to be quite a headache for you. I didn't mean to be an additional headache.

Pat,  I apologize for not having my reservation system for NYE in order when you called in early December.  I can understand your reluctance in giving your credit card number to someone claiming to be be calling from Corduroy.  I'll consider your reservation confirmed unless I hear from you. 

That's quite all right. I figured I was calling very early. Since I don't usually dine out on NYE, I didn't know how early I had to call. I guess it's possible to be too early :wink:. Thank you again, and I'm looking forward to a wonderful meal at Corduroy tomorrow night.

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I just wanted to add that when I made reservations at Firefly for NY Eve (this afternoon) they asked for a credit card (which I assume explains why I couldn't make it on Opentable)--I asked for cancellation guidelines and then gave them my number.

FYI - Opentable can ask for and take credit card numbers online. Typically I've run into this with booking larger (i.e. >6 people) tables. It's SSL encoded - so theoretically as secure as ordering anything else online with a credit card. Cancellation guidelines are included (48 hours) but it's not clear what the charge would be in the event of a no-show.

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Just to add $.02 to the discussion:

Asking for a credit card number to guarantee the reservation is pretty common. At Bis, we do it for parties over 6 year-round, and for parties of any size for special days such as New Year's Eve, Valentine and whenever else people are driven to dine out. We charge $25 per person for no-shows.

As to the timing, this is my guess of the dialogue that happened.

Thirty days before December 31st.

"Rrrring! Rrrring! Big Name Restaurant? We would like to make a reservation for a party of eight for New Year's Eve."

Maitre'd: "I'd be happy to do this for you, sir. Our policy requires a credit card number to hold a reservation."

"Really? No, really? This sounds strange. I don't give out credit card numbers over the phone. And I don't have one on me. My dog ran away with them. Do I have to give you one?"

Maitre'd: "I can make a reservation for you if you be so kind as to call us no later than four days before December 31st with a credit card number."

"Okay, well, I suppose. Please make the booking and I'll call you back."

""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""

It's four days before December 31st.

Owner to maitre'd or hostess: "How are we doing for the Big Chow Night?"

Maitre'd: "Let me see...80% booked."

Owner: "Do we have phone numbers and credit card info on file for every res?"

Maitre'd peers into the screen and activates a fancy-schmancy Open Table feature that highlights non-confirmed reservations in a vile shade of orange.

"Hmmm. A deuce for Pat D is not confirmed. Neither is a three-top for John Smith. And that eight-top for American Brain Damage Association isn't, either."

Owner: "Let's call them up and get the info and remind them of our cancellation policy."

Maitre'd: "Rrrrring! Rrrring! Pat? This is Big Name Restaurant calling regarding your New Year's Eve reservation...."

Been there, done that. Is industry practice.

Resident Twizzlebum

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Industry practice or not, we should all refuse to give a credit card number to anyone who CALLS US. Anyone heard of fraud? identity theft?

On a different note, what's scarier for a proprietor...bad press on EGullet or bad press in Tom Sietsema's column? Hmmm....

Bridget Avila

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Industry practice or not, we should all refuse to give a credit card number to anyone who CALLS US.  Anyone heard of fraud?  identity theft?

On a different note, what's scarier for a proprietor...bad press on EGullet or bad press in Tom Sietsema's column?  Hmmm....

I am not in the industry-just an enthusiast as most on this board. Yet I cannot help but wonder why you would ask your last question? As for giving a credit card number it would not be a problem if when receiving a call you return the call to the business phone number which is your security of reaching the restaurant. I do admit to an attitude that is sympathetic to restauranteurs when it comes to customers who don't show up. Responsible restaurants don't overbook like airlines; if a customer doesn't come the table usually sits empty. Fifty, sixty seat restaurants (which means 40-45 "covers") losing 4, 6 dinners can be the difference literally between profit and loss. Consider the alternative: two hour + waits at Bonefish Grill, Carabba's, Clyde's, Sweetwater and far too many corporate owned restaurants that do not accept any reservations at all.

To take this a step further in Europe it is rare when a restaurant asks for any guarantee or confirmation. Even starred restaurants. Even El Bulli, Le Calandre and Schwarzwaldstube which all have several month plus waits or much more. None of these three (arguably the best in each' country) requires any guarantee at all. It is mostly in the U. S. where the lack of consideration on the part of so many causes the need for guarantees, for same day or previous day confirmation and so forth. I just believe we should have a bit more respect for the efforts that someone "on the other side of the table" puts into their investment and their effort.

Edited by Joe H (log)
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I had the good fortune of eating in a lovely Turkish restaurant on the Upper East Side in NYC on Valentine's Day several years ago. To make a long story short, the restaurant was 3/4 empty when we sat down at 9:30. I remarked to the owner that he must have been slammed before we came in, because when we had made our reservations a week before, nothing before 9:30 was available. He responded that over half of the people who had reservations didn't show up (I believe it was raining lightly), and no one(!) had called to cancel. My point is that restaurants must TURN DOWN reservations because they are booked, so those who can't get reservations may never call back, will eat elsewhere, and if those WITH reservations don't show up, the restaurant is going to lose a lot of money; because they can't call back those who wanted to reserve, and couldn't, and say' "Hey, guess what, get dressed and come on down to dinner, a spot just opened up!" Esp. on New Year's freakin Eve!

I guess my point is that when you rent a car, you expect them to HOLD the reservation, same as a restaurant. You should be willing to extend the same courtesy.

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This discussion pops up regularly all over the egullet forums. Once again the bottom line is that those who reserve one or multiple tables then don't show or cancel with a reasonable amount of notice ruin the experience for both the restaurants and other diners.

Just to add another anecdote, a chef friend of mine recently took a reservation for 12 at his chef's table. The party consisted of a well known TV star and his entourage. They were going to be in town, had read about his place, and wanted a full tasting menu. He normally does about 20 tastings a night, so he ordered extra ingredients to accomodate them. Twenty minutes before their booked time, they called and cancelled. He hadn't taken a credit card deposit, so he had essentially no recourse.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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I would hope that Pat will give a full and complete review.

We had a wonderful meal last night. My husband had the Caesar salad and lamb sirloin with mini goat cheese ravioli. The ravioli is a great combination with the lamb. (I took a little bit. I love lamb but have been on a pretty strict diet for about a year and half, so I hardly ever have it anymore. Ditto for cheese :sad: ) I had oysters on the half shell with apple mignonette and the fish special. When the waiter described the preparation of the special (which was cod), I asked if that was the same as the way the chef used to prepare tuna. I had loved the tuna when I had it before (seared and served with sushi rice and seaweed). That was no longer on the menu, but the description of the cod special sounded the same to me. Our waiter (who was very helpful throughout the evening) confirmed that it was like the way the tuna had been prepared. I was interested in ordering it and seeing how the cod worked in the dish and was happy to be getting a version of a dish I had liked so much in the past. The waiter came back a couple of minutes later and said that the chef would substitute tuna for the cod if I liked. While I was interested in trying out the cod, I wasn't going to turn down the tuna :rolleyes:. It was just as wonderful as I remember it being before. Special indeed :smile:

To drink, we had a bottle of Pinot Noir, a Sancerre (Chavignol). I had never had a red Sancerre before and figured it would be somewhat light. The color was beautiful. We enjoyed it quite a bit. I'm not expert at pairing wines and usually ask for advice, but I just went on my own there.

Normally I don't order dessert but my husband does. Last night I wanted a little bit of dessert and he didn't. We ended up splitting the fresh fruit sorbet, which had 3 flavors: pineapple, banana, and (I think) pear. I also ordered a Grand Marnier, something I drink about once a year. I don't much care for sweet things, nor for oranges, and I don't generally like brandy. For some reason, I like Grand Marnier. Go figure. :hmmm:

Anyway, it was a fabulous meal to end the year, and I'm glad we went. It was a fine night.

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I wish every restaurant would take a credit card number for every reservation, and charge the no shows. Is it that hard to call in advance to cancel??? Maybe then, restaurants that currently don't need to take reservations and deal with the no shows (I'm looking at you, Chef Jose) would extend the courtesy to their patrons. It makes life so much easier for us customers! (I agree with the point about calling the restaurant back for security purposes, though.)

Save Pale Male <--- GO HERE!
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I wish every restaurant would take a credit card number for every reservation, and charge the no shows.  Is it that hard to call in advance to cancel???  Maybe then, restaurants that currently don't need to take reservations and deal with the no shows (I'm looking at you, Chef Jose) would extend the courtesy to their patrons.  It makes life so much easier for us customers!  (I agree with the point about calling the restaurant back for security purposes, though.)

Maybe it's getting a little off-topic, but I enjoy spending time in Austin (a town I love) and most places there don't seem to take reservations, as a matter of course. I'm used to making reservations (from living in DC) and it tends to throw me. The only place I know of that absolutely demands reservations there is Fonda San Miguel for Sunday brunch (been there for dinner--no res--still haven't done brunch, unfortunately). I'm okay with waiting for a table, so long as it's not a really long time [>20-30 minutes]. I like being able to make reservations and would be willing to give a cc number at most places I go to in DC--I usually pay with a credit card anyway. I hope the empty tables we saw at Corduroy on NYE were not no-shows. I might not have even noticed them if it hadn't been for this episode :unsure: .

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This may or may not be strictly relevant...

Very few places (certainly very few outside London unless they're serious gastrotemples) in the UK take credit card numbers, although I believe it's on the increase.

I have worked in two establishments where it was common practise for the management to call up no-shows at 1am, at the end of service, and ask if they were still coming. They tended to get the message.

Two tables of six not turning up three times a week, if you have fifty covers in your restaurant, is a significant dent in your finances.

People should book responsibly; restaurants should treat bookings responsibly.

Allan Brown

"If you're a chef on a salary, there's usually a very good reason. Never, ever, work out your hourly rate."

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Cafe 15 are requiring a credit card to hold dinner reservations during Restaurant Week, when they say they have a particular problem with no-shows. Certainly fair enough, but they don't do it over the phone, for security reasons, and aren't set up to do it through OpenTable for bookings made through that channel. So it's via fax only, which is cumbersome if, like me, you simply don't have one. Back to appearing in the flesh ahead of time, I guess.

"Mine goes off like a rocket." -- Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, Feb. 16.

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Cafe 15 are requiring a credit card to hold dinner reservations during Restaurant Week, when they say they have a particular problem with no-shows. Certainly fair enough, but they don't do it over the phone, for security reasons, and aren't set up to do it through OpenTable for bookings made through that channel. So it's via fax only, which is cumbersome if, like me, you simply don't have one. Back to appearing in the flesh ahead of time, I guess.

never mind the fax, I don't even have a credit card; I've never had an overriding need for one! :)

Allan Brown

"If you're a chef on a salary, there's usually a very good reason. Never, ever, work out your hourly rate."

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Cafe 15 are requiring a credit card to hold dinner reservations during Restaurant Week, when they say they have a particular problem with no-shows. Certainly fair enough, but they don't do it over the phone, for security reasons, and aren't set up to do it through OpenTable for bookings made through that channel. So it's via fax only, which is cumbersome if, like me, you simply don't have one. Back to appearing in the flesh ahead of time, I guess.

never mind the fax, I don't even have a credit card; I've never had an overriding need for one! :)

Try renting a car. :laugh::laugh:

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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Try renting a car. :laugh:  :laugh:

I don't drive; I cycle! :rolleyes:

Actually, in the UK it's quite easy to book a hotel room, rent a car or do other things without a credit card. We have debit cards, which are almost as well accepted as credit cards and function in the same way except that they draw on existing funds, not on a credit limit.

Edited by culinary bear (log)

Allan Brown

"If you're a chef on a salary, there's usually a very good reason. Never, ever, work out your hourly rate."

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Industry practice or not, we should all refuse to give a credit card number to anyone who CALLS US.  Anyone heard of fraud?  identity theft?

This is a good point. It's legit for the restaurant to ask for your card after you've made the reservation. But if you're not a dummy, you should call them back at the restaurant to give them the number.

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I have worked in two establishments where it was common practise for the management to call up no-shows at 1am, at the end of service, and ask if they were still coming.  They tended to get the message.

This is awesome. I am going to propose this to my GM tonight and let you know what he says.

Resident Twizzlebum

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