On its face, this policy sounds positively counter-intuitive: If you no-show for a reservation you’d made a restaurant, that restaurant will send you a gift card to spend there at a later date. Isn’t that like rewarding a friend who ghosted you by offering to pick up the tab on your next date?
There’s a logic to this policy, though. Restaurants that send these gift cards are doing so after charging your credit card a no-show fee. In many cases, the gift card is equal to the amount of the fee they charged you. So, say you made a reservation at Chez Kate for six people on a Friday night. I, the proprietor of Chez Kate, took your credit card number at the time of booking, and when you failed to show up for that reservation, I charged you our restaurant’s $35 no-show fee. Then, to make this seem less like a mean-spirited penalty, I mail you a gift card for $35, inviting you to actually come in to Chez Kate.
According to a Portland Press Herald article, restaurants are searching for similarly creative ways to handle the scourge of no-show diners. The rise of online systems like OpenTable make it easier than ever to book reservations, sometimes at multiple restaurants at the same time, then no-show with few consequences. (OpenTable does send customers emails when they no-show, and will terminate users’ accounts after four no-shows in a year.) Restaurants are trying multiple strategies to combat the epidemic—which can majorly kill a business’ bottom line—from taking deposits to charging no-show fees.
The fee-plus-gift-card option is an interesting one, though, and it’s recommended by the National Restaurant Association. Booking system Tablein also encourages the gift-card route, noting: “your restaurant doesn’t have losses, your potential client is happier, and they are more likely to spend money in addition to the gift card next time.” Other no-show deterrents include making it easier for parties to cancel ahead of time, calling or emailing to remind parties of their reservations a couple days in advance, and being accommodating of groups that might be late to a reservation.
Bottom line, fellow diners, if you can’t show up to a reservation, let the restaurant know. The staff will be grateful for the heads up, even if it’s last minute. It goes for relationships, too: Literally any notice is better than just ghosting.