Life Food & Drink

Thursday 19 September 2019

'People don’t realise what they’re doing' - Chef Oliver Dunne on no-show diners who cost him over €1500 a week

Oliver Dunne
Oliver Dunne
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

A Dublin restaurateur has hit out at the number of people who don’t cancel their bookings and then fail to show up at his restaurants.

Oliver Dunne, who owns Dublin restaurants Bon Appetit, Beef and Lobster, Cleaver East, and December Fest, estimates that no-shows can cost him anything from €1500 per week in any one of his restaurants.

December, the busiest time of year in the restaurant trade, is plagued by no shows but it happens throughout the year, he says.

“It’s an ongoing problem every day throughout the year. It’s not the big groups, the big groups are the headline grabbers, but it’s the twos and fours every day of the week, and by the end of the year they add up and are far, far greater than all of the big groups combined.” 

“Every night I get a report sent from each restaurant which tells me how many covers we got, and the no-shows. On Friday December 14, for example, in Bon Appetit there were 16 covers that didn’t show - a table of eight, a table of four, and two tables of two. In Cleaver East that night there were 12 no-shows.” 

“There’s no malice in it, people don’t realise what they’re doing, we’ve all forgotten about appointments such as the hairdressers.” 

Dunne’s restaurants charge €20 per person when the person making the booking gives their credit card details in December. Dunne believes restaurants should all apply a deposit during this busy time.

“I use it as a deterrent, not as a means to cash in on people coming into the restaurant.” 

“Some restaurants do this and they’re greedy and they’re actually doing it to try and make money. I don’t want to take 20 euro, I just want you to cancel.  

He added: “There’s only one solution, which I don’t feel will happen. The only solution is if all restaurants pooled together and said the policy, to take credit card deposits for the month of December, we’re all doing this.”

Gaz Smith of Michael’s in Mount Merrion, County Dublin said the onus is on the restaurant to confirm reservations.

“We call bigger groups a week before and on the day to confirm, so we try to protect ourselves as much as possible.”

“We’ve had a couple of cases recently of groups either cancelling very last minute or simply not turning up, this hurts us so badly. Losing a big group in a small suburban restaurant with barely any footfall means trying to fill those spaces last minute is a problem and having empty tables on what should be a busy night has enormous ramifications and can skew the margins for the month.”

However, Smith doesn’t believe in asking for credit card details to secure a booking because he believes it sets “the wrong tone for what should be an occasion with a mutual trust and respect”.

But he added: “A small independent like us can’t absorb the losses, and we will have to look into taking credit card deposits for larger groups.”

“Life is fickle and we are gracious about cancellations and we know and understand that people get sick, the weather turns bad, babysitters let people down, cars break down – stuff happens, but we would always urge people to give a quick 30 second call to let the restaurant know, we really appreciate it.”

Smith says no-shows mean an average loss of 50 euro per person during Christmas which, he explains, “is a restaurant’s ‘safety net for January’”.

“Two tables a day at Christmas time gets the figure totting up very quickly,” he said.

Meanwhile, Michelin star chef Garrett Byrne at Campagne in Kilkenny says no-shows don’t affect their business, but he does see credit card deposits becoming the norm in the future.

“You go to New York or London, we go all the time to restaurants and it’s par for the course. It’s just the way the industry is moving. I think it works both ways. We eat out a fair bit, and I’ve no problem giving my credit card.”

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