Should Reservation No-Shows Be Publicly Shamed?

Dunce| Photo: scjn/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The relationship between restaurant and customer is a complex one, built on trust and service. On the one hand, the customer goes to the restaurant trusting that the restaurant will provide a quality level of service, bring only the freshest ingredients prepped in unique fashions to the table, and handle the meals in a way as to minimize contaminants. But on the flip side, the restaurant has a few expectations of their own for the customer. Most importantly, you know, pay for your meal. But there's a nearly as important rule for customers to follow: If you make a reservation, make sure to keep it. And if you're not, at least call.

But for whatever reason, some feel this unwritten agreement has gone out the window over the last few years. Customers make the reservations, the restaurant gets the table ready for them, and yet the customers never show. It's one of the most despicable acts in the restaurant business and Noah Ellis, operator of the Vietnamese fusion restaurant Red Medicine, has had enough of it.

Last week, Ellis spent some time on the restaurant's official Twitter feed calling out reservation no-shows:

Following the lash-out, Eater LA caught up with Ellis to ask him about it. His entire explanation is well worth reading, but here's a quick snippet:

We tried taking a credit card on every reservation, but it hurt our business; there's a contingent of people who just won't put down a card, regardless of if they plan on coming or not. The ticketing systems are interesting, but we do most of our business a la carte, and I'm also not sure that we have the consistent demand to justify it. We could do walk-in only, but then if you're celebrating a special occasion having a meeting, or trying to have a nice night out, it sucks to not know when you'll be able to get a table. There's no winning.

Now, it needs to be noted that Ellis is certainly not an innocent little victim in all of this. This is not the work of a bashful restaurateur, but a known provocateur. Back in 2010, for instance, he snapped a photo of L.A. Times food critic S. Irene Virbila before kicking her out of the restaurant. His explanation:

Irene is not the person any of us wanted reviewing our restaurant. ... This was not a rash decision.

Of course, if you believe Virbila, she was only there in civilian mode that night -- a dinner that certainly would've effected any future reviews, but not the point of the evening. Also, she'd done a pretty good job keeping her visage out of the public eye for over a decade, something that ended with one quick post by Ellis.

That said, despite a predisposition to side with whoever's opposing Ellis, he certainly does have a point with this one: The idea of shaming reservation no-shows is a good one.

We've all been in that situation where we're waiting an hour for a table, despite there seeming to be an ample amount of open ones strewn throughout, and we start getting mad at the people working for no reason at all. In those cases, it's not as if the restaurant's full of jerks not letting you sit down to prove a point. It's that the tables are being held for people with reservations. You see, if the restaurant simply gave those tables away, well, I'll let "Seinfeld" explain the problem with that:

There will, of course, always be exceptions. Traffic jams happen, sometimes it's tough to find parking, maybe you have to head to the hospital for an emergency, or for some reason decided that five minutes before leaving was the perfect time to pick that fight with your significant other that's been brewing for weeks. But those are rarities rather than the norm. In most cases, missing a reservation is simply because of laziness, and not making a courtesy call is because of a lack of decorum. And if that's the case, well, don't expect the rest of us to feel bad for you if you get publicly shamed on the Internet.

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About the Author

Rick Paulas has written plenty of things, some of them serious, many of them not, scattered over the vast expanses of the Internet. He lives in Los Angeles and is a White Sox fan.
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I feel like that's a really snotty thing for the restaurant owner to do, and I won't be dining with him simply because of that practice.

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I feel like that's a really snotty thing for the restaurant owner to do, and I won't be dining with him simply because of that practice.