Reservations and Deposits: Necessary, or Harmful to Restaurants?
This week in the San Francisco Chronicle, critic Michael Bauer prints an email from a San Francisco restaurant owner frustrated by no-shows:
Our New Year's eve dinner was quite successful—we did 250 [covers]. The problem was the 40 no-shows. We don't take credit card numbers because we don't want to offend or scare anyone away... Our only solutions to this behavior are to take credit cards or overbook by 10-20% assuming people will no-show, come late, or change party size...
Is it better for us to become like airlines or hotels (who both overbook and charge you anyway), continue to be at the whim of ill-mannered, would-be diners, and practice old school hospitality at our own expense, or is there a third way?
What might a third way be?
Scrap reservations altogether, Bauer says. (Though he admits that this isn't his preferred solution.) If you don't set aside tables—any tables—and there's a crowd hungry to get in the door, you'll turn the seats as fast as the diners will let you.
But, he continues, since restaurants (particularly higher-end ones) are unlikely to disconnect the reservation line, we may well see more restaurants asking for deposits—or even, in the case of some, contracts—in advance of a meal. Restaurants are left with three imperfect options: take deposits, don't take reservations, or suffer the no-shows.
What do you think? Do you prefer restaurants with a reservation option (or even, like Gael Greene, avoid places that don't take reservations)? And do you dine at restaurants that require deposits—or would the notion of parting with credit card information turn you away?