“Selfish”… “shortsighted”… “disgraceful”. It’s not the sort of thing you usually say to your customers. Well, not the ones you want to keep.
A top Michelin-starred chef in the UK has made headlines – and attracted widespread support – for saying all of those things, and more, about some of his would-be customers.
Restaurant had 27 no-show customers on one night
Tom Kerridge, a TV celebrity chef who owns Kerridge’s Bar and Grill in London and several other top eateries, had a social media wobbly of note at the weekend when a table of 27 people failed to arrive on Saturday night to honour their booking.
Like restaurants in many parts of the world during the pandemic, the industry in the UK has been hit hard by the lengthy closures. And although its social-distancing rules are less onerous than in some countries, establishments are still unable to operate at optimum capacity.
Industry is on the verge of collapse and jobs are at risk
Clearly extremely upset by his no-shows, Kerridge wrote on Instagram: “To the 27 people that booked @kerridgesbandg and then failed to turn up on a Saturday night – this industry, like many others, is on the verge of collapse.
“Your behaviour is disgraceful, shortsighted and downright unhelpful. All of you no-shows in all restaurants up and down the country are adding to the issues already being faced.”
His post continued: “You are putting people’s jobs more at risk. We put staff levels to the number of covers (patrons) booked and when you fail to turn up, it now costs us; which in turn will force very uncomfortable and hard decisions about staffing levels.”
Outburst is supported by many others in the industry
His outburst was immediately supported by other chefs and restaurateurs, who all complained of similar experiences.
“Why does our industry get treated like this when a single phone call when you change your mind sorts all of this out? You should be ashamed of yourself and we should have protection against this,” wrote one chef.
“Staff don’t work for free because the guests don’t turn up. Ingredients are prepared and wasted. It is incredibly disrespectful,” said another.
Australian eateries experiencing a similar no-show pattern
The problem is not confined to the UK. Here in Australia it is also widespread as establishments struggle with huge lockdown losses and limited seating capacity enforced by the new regulations.
Wes Lambert, chief executive of Restaurant and Catering Australia, told news broadcaster SBS that many restaurants have taken the step of asking for a deposit from customers when they make a booking.
“Pre-COVID, it was very common [for the public] to make multiple bookings on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night and then make your mind up as the night got closer,” he said.
Booking fees are being implemented to combat the problem
“Until the restrictions are eased on a council, state and federal level, it is very important that consumer behaviour is altered just a bit.”
He added: “We have told our member base, as well as the industry in total, that it is okay to charge a booking fee for no-shows. It’s very common in many industries, and those seats are in high demand and low supply.”