Chefs in call for credit card fine for 'no shows'
A LEADING chef has hit out at restaurant customers who make reservations for a table and then don't turn up or ring to cancel.
Pat Lalor, head chef at the popular Pizza e Porchetta restaurant on Dublin's Grand Canal Quay, was speaking after a group of 14 booked a table for Saturday, but didn't show up.
Estimating the cost of the discourteous would-be diners, Mr Lalor told the Herald it cost his business upwards of €3,000.
"It was about one-third off the takings for that night and Saturday would be busy.
"We have a quick turn around, we could have filled the tables three times," he said.
The chef said that the large group had booked a table for 8pm but did not turn up.
When the restaurant attempted to contact the group, the phone number that was left was ringing out.
It was only after the manager used his personal mobile phone to contact one of the group, that the phone was answered.
"He rang on his personal mobile. They said they thought one of the group had called earlier in the week to cancel the booking, which they hadn't," Mr Lalor said.
With Saturday being one of the busiest days in the restaurant business, Pizza e Porchetta had a third of its space closed for a significant amount of time.
One method used to deter no-shows is for restaurants to take a customer's credit card details and issue a fine if the customer doesn't turn up.
Mr Lalor supported the idea for larger group bookings, but said such a policy might also scare off small groups and deter them from choosing the restaurant.
"Every restaurant is different. It's a bigger problem for fine dining restaurants, which might only fit say 30 people," he said.
Chef Oliver Dunne, who runs the Michelin-starred restaurant Bon Appetit in Malahide, said that the problem of no shows was constant.
"It's an ongoing problem, it happens day in and day out," he said.
"To be honest, I don't mind on quiet days where there are 40 or 50 people in the restaurant. It's when it is a busy day like Friday or Saturday, the restaurant is full and you're turning people away," he said.
Mr Dunne said to combat the problem, he introduced a policy of overbooking, which he said has so far been successful.
"I've never been caught out. There is definitely going to be at least one table that doesn't turn up," he said. .
Mr Dunne advocated for the credit card system and said he uses it during the busy Christmas period when customers are given 24 hours to cancel or they are charged €20.
"It's a big thing in London," he said. "I've been going on about this for years and have been campaigning for it."
But Mr Dunne said that the policy would have to be introduced across the industry, so that diners become accustomed to the practice and aren't scarred away from booking.