No-shows: Restaurants that don’t take deposits have ‘only themselves to blame’

Owners shouldn’t be so reluctant to take card details, says Michelin chef Damien Grey

Covid squeeze: paying a deposit to secure a restaurant reservation is likely to become the norm. Photograph: iStock/Getty

Covid squeeze: paying a deposit to secure a restaurant reservation is likely to become the norm. Photograph: iStock/Getty

 

Paying a deposit to secure a restaurant reservation is likely to become the norm, as restaurateurs respond to a new wave of no-shows that are threatening businesses already squeezed by Covid-19 restrictions.

Damien Grey, chef-proprietor of Liath restaurant, in Blackrock, uses Tock, a US-based online reservations system, to manage bookings, and charges a €54-per-person deposit at the time of booking, which is credited towards the customer’s final bill. He does not understand why Irish restaurateurs are reluctant to charge a deposit or retain credit-card details to charge a fee in the case of a no-show.

“It’s the same every year. You’ve got to ask why there’s reluctance to do it. It just safeguards the reservation,” he says. “We’ve had four no-shows in five years, and those people just blatantly did not care.”

The chef Gary O’Hanlon says that restaurants which are still not taking deposits have “only themselves to blame” for no-shows – and adds that some people make multiple bookings for the same night. He tweeted: “I’ll tell you how oblivious people are. For many years I’ve had various friends tell me they’ve 2/3 restaurants booked and we’ll go with ‘our mood’ on the day. They look mystified when I explain how rude it is. Most, literally, don’t see the issue.”

William Barry, country manager for ResDiary, an online reservations system used by 750 restaurants in Ireland, says the number of his customers taking credit-card details to secure reservations has doubled this year.

“I would say that, before Covid, the kind of people that took credit-card details tended to be Michelin-star restaurants or the five-star hotels, where now it’s pretty much everyone.”

Denise McBrien, manager of the Old Spot gastropub in Dublin 4, started taking credit-card details to secure reservations this summer and has seen a marked change in customer behaviour. “We had no no-shows at all this weekend,” McBrien says. The venue served 550 diners between Friday and Sunday. “The difference it makes when someone puts their credit-card details into that box is incredible.”

During the 11 weeks that the Old Spot was open during the summer, only one table of four and two tables of two did not show up. The table of four thought they had booked for another date, and were rebooked, while the two tables of two were charged €25 a head.

Restaurants pay a monthly fee to use online booking software. “A reservations system isn’t an expensive thing to have. Most of my customers pay between €100 and €150 per month,” William Barry says.

The system allows restaurant owners to add their own terms and conditions, including cancellation and no-show policies. “Michelin-star restaurants may charge the full menu price, but more casual restaurants might only charge €10. If the venue wants to, it can go one step further and take a deposit at the time of booking.”

Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, one of three restaurants in Ireland with two Michelin stars, charges a cancellation fee of €100 per person if a reservation is cancelled less than 48 hours before the time the table had been reserved for, or in the case of a no-show.

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