What's to be done about the problem of no-shows, which has become such an issue that it's in danger of threatening the very existence of some restaurants?
In the UK, chill winds are blowing through the industry, with a number of well-regarded London restaurants simply not re-opening after Christmas because of poor trading, even in the busiest month of the year. Brexit may be part of it, of course, but it's undeniable that many of the factors that affect restaurants over there are also relevant here. Rising food costs, skills and staff shortages, and high rents (both commercial and residential) all make it more difficult for restaurants, particularly those in the middle market. So everything is not rosy in the world of Irish restaurants, and it's not helped when people don't bother to turn up for the tables that they have booked.
If you're a well-mannered person, then the idea of booking a table in a restaurant and not showing up for the booking is probably not something that has ever occurred to you. (It has probably not crossed your mind, either, to think that you might book one, two or even three alternative restaurants for the same evening, so that you can choose between them at the last minute depending on your mood.) If, having made the booking, you discover that you can't make it after all, then you ring and cancel. Simple. If you have to cancel at the last minute, because of illness, babysitter failure or another good reason, you are probably very apologetic.
If you had bought tickets for a concert, play or exhibition and the same thing happened, you'd probably try and get someone else to buy them off you, but if that wasn't possible then you would just have to suck it up. Some argue that it should be the same for restaurant bookings, and it's being suggested by the Restaurant Association of Ireland that restaurants should implement an across-the-board non-refundable €20 per seat deposit, on the basis that this might focus the minds of those who are currently cheerfully oblivious to (or simply don't care about) the impact of not turning up.
Although credit card details are already required by some restaurants to secure bookings, it has tended so far to be only those most in demand that can get away with it. Yes of course you'll give your credit card details to Heron & Grey, for instance, because you're so damn lucky to have got a table that you wouldn't dream of not showing up. Whether that's going to work in other, less in-demand restaurants is anyone's guess.
HOUSE OF LOVE
Sandyford House in the village is under new management and has had a smart makeover. On Valentine's Day, the restaurant will be serving a three-course dinner for two including the essential Textures of Chocolate dessert and a glass of Prosecco for €60 per couple.
Book at sandyfordhouse.ie.
SOLVING A RIDDLE
The Riddler's regular Friday Night Live event, in Dublin 8, pairs a menu of modern Irish food with live music from 7.30pm-9.30pm, ideal for a post-work wind-down. Acts change weekly but include blues singer, Lisa Jameson, and Spanish guitarist, Juan José Manzano.
DINE AT HOGWARTS
The culinary arts students of DIT Cathal Brugha Street DIT - the chefs of tomorrow - are putting on a pop-up restaurant, Hogwarts at The Green Room, at lunchtime on January 31, February 1 and March 7 and 8.
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