Some restaurants will send you a gift card if you no-show for a reservation

Illustration for article titled Some restaurants will send you a gift card if you no-show for a reservation
Photo: WichitS (iStock)

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.

Kate Bernot is a freelance writer and a certified beer judge. She was previously managing editor at The Takeout.



OpenTable looks interesting.

Im curious, though, if there is an app that will show area restaurants current wait times without reservations? Ive long thought that an app that will combine that with service times and drive times would be great for people who are in a hurry to start eating for whatever reason, be it a deadline or just plain hunger.