If a restaurant no-shows, does it owe you anything?
I made the reservations Monday on Resy for a late-summer Sunday brunch at 12:15 p.m. on the patio. There would be four of us, two coming from Evanston, two from Oak Park, our choosing a restaurant near Logan Square to split the difference. Resy sent a confirmation email.
It was yet another muggy, sunny, 90-degree August day when we showed up at 12:15 to find that the patio was in the shade—and unoccupied. So was the restaurant. No one was inside. It was dark and closed.
What followed was a half-hour sweaty hike around the neighborhood as we tried to find another brunch place with outdoor seating; one of our party was visiting his elderly mother soon and didn’t feel comfortable eating inside thanks to the Delta variant.
We finally wound up at a restaurant that one of our group had vetoed at first, but it had a shady table, and we were eager to sit down and eat already. We had a decent lunch but remained chafed about the closed restaurant.
The husband from the Oak Park couple emailed later to say he’d received a call from someone at the restaurant, responding to a voicemail he’d left, saying they were sorry they hadn’t told us it was closed for brunch although it was back open for dinner.
I, the person who had made the reservation, heard back nothing. So I called the restaurant and related our experience to the woman who answered.
“Right,” she said, “I talked to your son.”
“I don’t have a son.”
She explained that they’d decided to close for brunch for a couple of weeks because business had been slow, and they’d tried to call everyone who had a reservation. I didn’t press her on “tried,” and I’m not sure the point of having a system such as Resy if reservations holders (and it sounds like there weren’t that many) aren’t alerted when the restaurant cancels.
“Would you like me to book another reservation for you?” she asked.
“You mean for us to make a regular reservation? You’re not offering anything else, right?”
“Right. But I can make a reservation for you if you’d like to come come back.”
“We’re not planning on coming back.”
“I understand how you feel. If you change your mind and would like to dine with us again, just give us a call.”
That was that.
OK, restaurant people, I need your opinion. Putting the “your son” bit aside—wait, I’m not quite ready to do that.
I have a few years on my friend, but he doesn’t sound that young, and I don’t sound that old. I don’t! Really! My voice has youthful vigor! I’m not protesting too much!
“Your son.” FFS.
Aside from that, does a restaurant owe the customer anything under these circumstances? This is a place that has on its reservations page: “For Friday and Saturday reservations, a credit card is required to secure the reservation. If you cancel within 24 hours, you will be charged $25 per guest.”
So if this had been a weekend night, and the four of us hadn’t shown up—or if we’d given them less than a full day’s notice—the restaurant would have collected $100 from us. And I understand that.
In this case the restaurant didn’t show up, and we drove an hour round-trip and endured the inconvenience of trying to find (and agree upon) a new restaurant on a scorching day amid pandemic complications. The restaurant’s response of offering to schedule another reservation strikes me as chutzpah.
But for me to suggest how the restaurant might make things right feels wrong. I don’t want to be demanding anything. The pandemic has devastated restaurants, and the survivors face dwindling margins, supply issues and a severe labor shortage, so my inclination is to cut a place some slack. But I do expect some basics.
This is like something out of a bad relationship. It doesn’t mean anything if I have to tell you how to fix it!
And what role does the reservations company play? Should I feel comfortable using Resy in the future when the system booked us at a place that turned out to be closed for that meal, with no notice or follow-up? Or is that on the restaurant?
Is this a total failure in hospitality?
Or does everyone deserve a break because, hey, it’s COVID?