A Dublin restaurant owner has said he has had to introduce a deposit policy for bookings after 18 customers did not show up for appointed slots on Friday night.
Damien Quinn, part-owner of Sussex restaurant on Leeson Street Upper, said he hadn't asked bookings for deposits this month as he was "sympathetic to people out of pocket due to Covid-19".
“There were five bookings in total which were no-shows, which included 18 customers. They were all confirmed on the day,” Mr Quinn said.
“I didn’t take deposits just because the situation we’re in, a lot of people can’t afford it, a lot of people are out of work. I had one table cancel 15 minutes before they were due to arrive.”
Mr Quinn said that from Saturday they were now taking deposits of €20 per person, as they have done over previous Decembers.
“It’s just the frustration of it being our opening night and the industry has been hit so hard. Everyone who works in the industry has really worked hard to make sure everyone is safe. It’s just a bit disappointing when there’s that level of people who don’t show,” he added.
“I’ll hold my hand up and say I was probably wrong in not taking deposits but the reason we didn’t is because I was sympathetic to people out of pocket at the moment because of Covid-19. I thought a lot of people were there to support restaurants and we wouldn’t have the same issue that we have every year.”
Restaurants and gastropubs reopened on Friday for indoor dining as part of the Government’s phased emergence from Level 5 restrictions for the Christmas period.
The Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) has said businesses reported over the weekend that some customers had booked several restaurants on the same night primarily so they could spend more time drinking.
"What I'm hearing now is that we have customers booking multiple locations and turning up and just having a dessert in one place with drinks then moving onto another place for a starter with drinks," said Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the RAI.
“It’s tough enough at the moment for businesses without that sort of messing going on. I know they’re within the guidelines but when your industry is trying to maximise turnover in December, when we’ve been closed for six weeks nationally and for 12 weeks in Dublin, they need to get the cash flow in. We can see a tsunami of liquidations coming down the tracks in the new year.”
Mr Cummins said the RAI is also calling on gardaí to “ramp up” inspections of licensed premises to ensure that “everybody is playing off the same hymn sheet and it’s being done correctly”.
“A business has to prepare the food on site and there has to be the purchase of a €9 meal with an alcoholic drink. We have a window of opportunity now to get this right,” he added.
Some restaurant owners were happier with the reopening weekend, with Paul Cadden, owner of the Saba restaurant group, said it went "really well". Customers at his Baggot Street and Clarendon Street premises were "very considerate and respectful" of Covid-19 guidelines, he said.
“Everybody was a little bit anxious starting off back into business again on Friday night, butterflies in the stomach feeling, but it all went really well.
“It’s totally different because you don’t have the Christmas parties like other years so it’s all bookings of twos, fours and a few sixes. Everyone’s very cautious. People are coming in to dine and then they’re gone, it’s a totally different vibe, but still everybody is in great form, they’re delighted to be out.”
Mr Cadden said he was fortunate that no-shows weren’t a problem for him and that they have been taking deposits of €10 per person.
“It’s not like other years either where people are walking in. It’s nearly 99 per cent reservations.
“We’re taking walk-ins but there weren’t walk-ins to take,” he added.
“Other years there were concerts on, theatre, shows, people would be eating and going on to something. That’s not happening this year.
“The Friday and Saturday nights are very busy for the rest of the month and then you have soft spots during the week but I think as time moves on and the weeks go on, it will pick up.”