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Wednesday 18 August 2021

The rules for dining out have changed forever

The etiquette of dining out has changed forever. 

Anyone booking at a high-end restaurant can expect to charged a deposit - and to pay a hefty sum per head for no shows. 

In increasingly difficult times, restaurateurs are tired of guests who book multiple dining options and do not show up for their bookings. 

High-end diners who "forget" to turn up for their bookings can expect to be slugged up to $300 per head  on their credit cards as restaurant owners try to claw back loses from unsold meals. 

The amount being charged is determined by the restaurant the booking was made with and can vary from $25 to astronomical sums depending on the venue. 

Perth eateries Hearth and the Ritz-Carlton at Elizabeth Quay charge "no shows" over $100, Hospitality Directory newsletter reports. 

Since the pandemic started, it has become increasingly common for restaurants to ask customers for their credit card details when making a booking. That will likely continue. 

The West Australian chief executive of Australian Hotels Association, Bradley Woods, said it was costing the industry over $10 million a year when people fail to turn up to their bookings. 

“These costs are associated with empty tables from turning away other patrons, staffing and wasted stock, so it’s perfectly understandable that venues take credit card details to ensure bookings are honoured,” he said.

I empathise. I conduct small wine tastings and of 30 people booked in July, there were nine cancellations and three no shows. I now operate a wait list to make sure I can cover cancellations. 

At Sydney restaurant Mr Wong, diners are told: “To secure your reservation we require a non-refundable deposit of $100 per person which will be contributed to your total bill on the day. 

“This acts as a minimum spend. In the event of cancellation within 48 hours of your booking time, the $100 per person prepaid amount will be retained by us as a cancellation fee.”

Ouch. The minimum spend is a bit harsh.

Quay restuarant in Sydney says: "Should you cancel your reservation within 72 hours of the arrival time or fail to show for the booking, a cancellation charge of $240 per person will be incurred.” 

Melbourne's Attica has a similar policy, which can cost a no show up to $320 per per person, influential restaurant critic John Lethlean recently reported in The Australian

One small Tasmanian eatery last weekend reported five of its six group bookings cancelled on the day due to dismal weather. That leaves food uneaten and staff standing around with nothing to do.   

Industry website encourages restaurants to be proactive. 

Their suggestions include securing revenue by storing a customer’s card details and charging their card if they don’t turn up, particularly over Christmas and other busy periods, as well as sending SMS reminders to customers with bookings. 

It also suggests overbooking to match no show rates. "If 20% if your bookings routinely don’t turn up, you may have room to overbook a bit."

If everyone does turn up, however, then there could be some angry - and hungry - customers. They can probably be placated with a free drink at the bar, however.

Customers pay in advance for theatre tickets and rock concerts - sometimes months in advance. Now they'd better get used to the same when they want to eat out. 




  1. I think it's absolutely fair enough (although $320 per person is a bit rough). Reminds me of a winery I went to (somewhere in the Hunter Valley) many, many years ago. To my horror, for a tasting I had to pay a $5 fee. You got it back if you bought a bottle. Idea was to stop minibus loads of freeloading bogans swilling all the samples and not buying anything. I said to the bloke: "But what if I don't like any of the wines I've sampled". He said: "Regardless of whether you don't like any of them, I've still supplied much more than $5 of wine to you." Fair enuff, I thought. In fact, if it discourages the drunken bogans, I think it's a great idea!

  2. I do agree with the credit card charge for no-shows, but what is to prevent the no-show then contacting Visa etc to dispute the charge? As to overbooking, no. Unless a diner is then offered a free meal at a later date, similar to airline policy.