Lunchtime poll – dinner no-shows
August 16th, 2010
12:30 PM ET
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A Chowhound message board commenter with the handle "violin" started a bit of an online kerfuffle, posting about a $100 no-show fee he'd been slapped with for missing a restaurant reservation.

The restaurant in question was Chicago's molecular gastronomy mecca Alinea, where multi-month waits for reservations are the norm, and where a single no-show table for four can mean a loss of 5% of the night's take.

The restaurant's co-owner Nick Kokonas, along with chef Grant Achatz, took to Alinea's own message board to explain the policy.

Our office goes so far as to track incoming flights for guests that we know are coming in that night. We make multiple calls and emails to confirm with guests. We try, in every instance, to avoid No-Shows and charging anyone. But sometimes people just don't show up. And the reasons are often logical and good. But they all come down to "It wasn't my fault" even though, of course, they didn't call to confirm, they didn't call to say they were going to miss it at the last minute, they didn't show up, and in this case they don't use 'fancy palm-pilots'. I am not sure what else we can do.

And this, of course, has led to the reservation system at NEXT.... 4 star food at 3-star prices due to the fact that no-shows cannot happen with ticket sales. Buy tickets to the Cubs, Bruce Springsteen, or a theater and no-show and what happens? You miss the show. You don't call the Cubs and tell them you forgot. If your sitter doesn't show you call your buddies and say, "Hey, I have 2 in the bleachers for today's game and can't make it - you wanna go?"

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  1. anne

    I once lucked into a fantastic 7-course French tasting menu seating for two - my college roommate's father had reservations booked months in advance, and his secretary called to give it to us because her boss was delayed in travel, and they'd be charged $150 whether or not they used the reservation. Magnificient!

    April 3, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
  2. Sarah B

    I charge for missed appointments in my business, how is that any different from a restaurant charging for a missed reservation? So long as the policy is stated at the time of booking, I see nothing wrong with charging.

    August 21, 2010 at 10:01 am |
  3. Donnie Darko

    I've never heard so many arrogant self absorbed people in all my life. I'll eat at Chili's. They have a higher class of people. Drink a cold one, eat a burger and watch a game. Let these folks argue whether it's OK to charge if you miss a reservation. Good lord. You all make me glad I don't frequent establishments like that.

    August 17, 2010 at 5:42 pm |
    • The Next Booth Over

      AMEN. The snooty ones are out in full force here.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:04 pm |
  4. Dustin S

    I just hope it is very clearly stated that if you do not show up that you will be charged. If they make this known before hand, you can make your own decision about making a reservation or not. If this is not clear then it should be disputed with your CC company.

    August 17, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
  5. Cynthia

    Those who treat restaurants like nothing but a business will always eat at those that establish themselves as a business – Long waiting lines, being put on a call-ahead list instead of a real reservation, cramped dining space...

    Those who understands gastronomy and look forward to experience a tasting journey will agree that the $100 charge is justified.

    These are two fundamentally different groups of people with different expectations of how they're treating and be treated. Rather pointless to make the other side agree with each other.

    August 17, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
    • Snob

      What an utterly pretentious statement. Clearly it's not different, as we have an article about people making reservations at these places and becoming upset by being charged.

      August 17, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
      • Cynthia

        If only you have actually read the original post. These are the exact words from "Violin".

        "Of course I understand why they do it, and I can't blame them."

        Is it painful? It surely is.
        Is it justified? It surely is.

        August 17, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
      • The Bathroom at Olive Garden

        @Snob- Thank. You. On one hand, she describes the uneducated cattle who treat restaurants like a business (gasp!) and on the other hand we have the cultural elite who embark on "tasting journeys." My entire office got a laugh out of that one.

        August 17, 2010 at 3:49 pm |
      • Cynthia

        You know what, this story started from a food-related forum. The original victim merely shared her pain that she got charged $100 and respected what the restaurant did. The story only got blown out of proportion because some people don't understand and appreciate haute cuisine.

        August 17, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
  6. Jeff O

    I wish more businesses would enforce their rules so I don't have to put up with idiots on the plane trying to stuff a shipping crate sized trunk into the over-head bin.

    August 17, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  7. Ann Marie

    Am treating my husband and three adult sons to Alinea for his 60th birthday.....We have been there before and as the kids are adults I could not think of a better way to celebrate. The food is exciting, interesting, beautiful and delicious. It will be a dinner we will never forget....I made the reservation for August 21 on June 1 and was very happy to have done that. This is not an every year occurrence, and it is pricey, but it will be worth it. As everyone has said, this style of dining does not lend itself to flexibilty for no shows, and frankly, the no shows are getting a gift only being charged $100.

    August 17, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
  8. Question

    What would possess a person to give a restaurant any more information about them than the name, how many are in the party and what time they want to eat there? You're going to track my plane flight? Absolutely not.

    August 17, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
  9. Really?

    When I make a reservation, barring something really bad happening, I go.

    However, if they wanted to charge me a fee for not showing up or make me buy a ticket, there's no way I would consider eating there, five month wait or no.

    This is ridiculous. The restaraunt industry takes themselves WAY too seriously. If someone misses their reservation, boo hoo. Most people make it. And even in high class restaraunts, there is always someone who walks in on the off chance that someone missed a reservation. If you're can't fill a seat without a reservation, then you deserve the loss of revenue. Don't take yourselves so seriously. It's FOOD, not nuclear war negotiations. If the customer can't make it, they can't make it. They don't NEED to give you an excuse and you don't deserve one. If you don't like it, don't allow that person to make reservations there any more. Hard? No. Not if you're getting enough information to bill them for missing the reservation.

    In fact, if you are going to charge me to sign up to put a body in the seat, I'd rather go somewhere unpretentious.

    August 17, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
    • SW

      This is exactly what I was trying to say above (admittedly a bit more bluntly). It's highly amusing to sit back and watch some of the other commenters use this article as a forum to show everyone how superior they are in the dealings with (give me a break) a frigging restaurant. This isn't tantamount to skipping out on your grandma's funeral. It's a dinner reservation, for God's sake. I'm sure that the food at these types of places is just transcendant and magical and life-changing and all that, but come on. Get over it/yourselves.

      August 17, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
      • Do some research

        Do either of you actually know what Alinea is or bothered to read the piece? First, you hand over your credit card number as you make the reservation, so if you don't want to be contractually obligated to it, then don't go. It's not like this was some secret charge. Obviously, you don't like the policy, so what's the point in making a reservation if that was the case. Second, the restaurant called and e-mailed the patron repeatedly to avoid this happening. It's not like this was some fluke that they fucked up the dates on their calendar and simply forgot about their ridiculously expensive meal. This isn't like you're having dinner at some neighborhood hotspot - it's a restaurant that doesn't take walk-ins because they only have about 60 seats - many of which they had to turn down other patrons. And finally, if they had simply canceled within an hour, the whole thing would have been avoided. They didn't charge them for canceling - they charged because it was a no-show, which put them out an entire table for the evening.

        If you don't like how a business is run, don't patronize it. But don't say that you'd adhere to an open stated policy and then give them a "fuck you" by slamming them for things that were laid out in the open. As Nick stated perfectly: "Buy tickets to the Cubs, Bruce Springsteen, or a theater and no-show and what happens? You miss the show." That's their policy. Not to mention the fact that the whole charge probably would have been avoided had circumstances been explained. Instead, the poster takes it upon themselves as some kind of martyr for the whole issue with a passive aggressive post. Address the problem you have with the restaurant FIRST and if you're denied, THEN go and slam them. This is why websites like Yelp are so fucked.

        August 23, 2010 at 2:39 am |
  10. LK

    Perhaps this type of accountability should work both ways. Can I charge a restaurant the next time my party is seated later then the reserved time?

    August 17, 2010 at 11:39 am |
  11. robm

    Charge me but let me pick up my doggie bag later.

    August 17, 2010 at 11:22 am |
  12. Tom

    If only you all knew what really went on even in high class restaurants, you would never want to go back. I've worked at plenty and would never eat at any of them again...

    August 17, 2010 at 11:04 am |
  13. snackbar

    The people who think nothing of standing the restaurant up have obviously never worked for themselves. If they had ever taken a risk to provide a service, they would see things differently. Just let the boss fail to show up with the check on Friday saying "I forgot" or "I had something else to do" and they would be the first to howl.

    August 17, 2010 at 11:01 am |
    • Really?

      That's inane. Not showing up to work – a place you are contractually obligated to be to make a living is far different than not making a dinner reservation. A dinner is an extra, something you don't need. The restaurant is providing a service that you pay for as you get it. They can find another body to fill the seat. Making a reservation is doing nothing but putting first dibs on the table. Skipping out on a day at work is completely different.

      August 17, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
  14. Brad

    Who cares about a pretentious gastro restaurant. It's one thing to blow of a little mom and pop restaurant, but these ultra swanky restaurants should go the way of the dinosaur anyway. I wouldn't eat at one if I got a free dinner coupon. Food as art is embarrassing.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:59 am |
  15. Wes

    Anyone else had Alinea's 22 course tasting menu? To die for.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:55 am |
  16. Carl

    As long as the reservation policy is clearly stated "Failure to use your reservation will subject you to a charge of $X", then billing for a missed reservation is legitimate at a restaurant like this, where one schedules months in would be part of the contract. Failure to state that, however, means that it might be hard to collect.

    That said, this type of establishment is so far out of my price range that it's irrelevant to me. I find it hard to believe the food is so incredible that I'd spend a couple of months grocery money on one dinner. If you gots the cash, though, you spends it how you like.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:41 am |
  17. SR

    Hotels commonly require a credit card to make the reservation and if you don't show, they charge for one night. Why should this be any different at a prix-fixe restaurant? Isn't this the same principle?

    August 17, 2010 at 10:28 am |
  18. Howard

    When enough people "no-show," the restaurant has to increase prices for the remaining customers to pay for the empty tables. It is appalling to see just how many people "feel awful," but can't be bothered to let the restaurant know. It's even more appalling to see how many jerks say "so what?" What a bunch of self-absorbed jackasses.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:21 am |
  19. libraryk

    Just not showing up for reservations, especially at an exclusive restaurant, is unfair to not only the owner, staff, but especially other patrons. The restaurant has estimated how much food, service staff and chefs will be needed that night. When you don't show up those items have already been paid for. Lets not talk about the service staff who come into work and getting stiffed since most of their income is tips. Now how about the patrons who are needlessly put on a longer waiting list because YOU tie up a spot that you do not use, especially someone who wants a special anniversary or other event but the night is booked.

    It also appears that the restaurant bends over backwards to remind patrons of their reservations. All inconsiderate patrons need to do is call.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:21 am |
  20. TI

    So they really had no one to take over the table after a no-show? How arrogant to charge someone $100.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:19 am |
    • EK

      Yes. They really had no one to take over a table after a no-show. This type of restaurant is reservations only. When you decide you want to eat there, and you call them, you are told (if you are lucky) that it will bee weeks before there is an opening. More likely it will be months.

      They do not handle walk-in customers, and everybody who might patronize the place pretty well knows it. Nobody even bothers to TRY to get walk in seating.

      They *REALLY, HONESTLY* have no one to take the table. Because the meal is staged and prepared to begin service minutes after the scheduled seating time. Even if they *could* find someone to take the seating, when you're paying $1,000 or more for a party of four, you aren't going to be accepting of something that is overcooked because it sat on the stove for five minutes too long, or has gone cold because it was plated five minutes too early. And the restaurant isn't going to risk its reputation by serving you something that is not as close to perfect as they can possibly make it.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:30 am |
      • server greg in nc

        bet oprah could walk right in and get a squat

        August 17, 2010 at 11:19 am |
      • Donnie Darko

        Because the meal is staged and prepared to begin service minutes after the scheduled seating time.

        I go to a restaurant with the same concept all the time. It's called McDonalds.

        August 18, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
      • sphynx

        ServerGreg–If Oprah was able to get a table at Alinea instantly, it would only be because some star-struck fan of hers gave up a seat on the spot so she could eat there right away.

        September 20, 2010 at 2:50 am |
  21. Rachel1

    Shouldn't this be one of the articles followed up with "Cnn has spoken with the restaurant in question, taken the $100 dollars that you were forced to give up because you stupidly didn't look into a contract from the restaurant that just already had made a profit and was just being greedy, and donated it to a charity. Done and done."

    August 17, 2010 at 10:17 am |
  22. the2chefs

    The restaurant is losing money? How about the servers assigned to your table? Patiently awaiting the arrival of their guests for the evening, preparing to serve you and watching the clock as to make sure as you seat they are ready to serve. In fine dinning restaurants you don't hold a table for 15 minutes and give it away. There is a strategy for even booking reservations to make sure no one is ever rushed. Not the guests, not the servers, not the kitchen. Reservations are spaced to keep a nice relaxing flow in the front and back of the house. If you don't understand the value of a reservation then you really should stick to drive through as you'd never appreciate the quality of service and foods a pay if you miss restaurant offers. The staff is highly trained from the dishwashers to the executive chef and everywhere in between. Clean restrooms, wine experts and shopping for high quality all go into preparing for your arrival.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:10 am |
  23. wolverine

    It is customary and polite to inform someone who is expecting you that you will not be showing up- you would let a family member know you're missing dinner at their place, why not a restaurant? The fine works. That being said, a thousand dollars for a table for four? NO FOOD is worth that much. None. Zippy. Zilch. Impossible. You will digest it the same you would a seventy-nine cent cheeseburger from McDs. While I support the restaurant protecting itself, a word to them- get over yourselves!

    August 17, 2010 at 9:55 am |
    • JamesinPGH

      Then... umm.. DON'T GO wolverine. If someone wants to change $100000 for a plate of pasta and you don't like it, then don't go. If they stay in business, then they had **something** that **someone** liked. Don't critize becase you don't get it / enjoy it. It is your right to not go and their right to open up a restaurant that isn't to your liking. Get a life.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:03 am |
    • the2chefs

      79 cent cheeseburgers? Where is the meat coming from and how much real meat is in it. Is the bun homemade and fresh that day or mass produced by machines at a factory? Are you being served and does someone need to wash the dishes? You’re best to stay with the dinner in a bag concept. For those of us who know and appreciate coffee made of rare beans, truffles flown in fresh that morning and fish fresh off the dock (not pressed in a coated frozen patty), Black angus beef and exquisite sea salts and fresh cracker peppercorns and fresh herbs, we'll keep our reservations and not blink an eye if we're charged for not showing up. Is there anyplace left in this country where a phone is not accessible? It just takes a moment and oh yeah in a fine dinning restaurant you get a direct line to a human and not an automated service. Oh how I love to be spoiled.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:17 am |
    • EK

      "NO FOOD is worth that much."

      Thousands of people disagree with you. Fortunately for them, their culinary and financial choices are not subject to your fiat.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:20 am |
      • the2chefs

        Anyone is entitled to disagree. I would never invite people with lesser appreciation for these types of foods to a restaurant like this. There are plenty of places YOU can go where you don't have to be responsible for your reservations. I come from a world where your word is your honor. You agreed to a reservation time, the restaurant agreed to accept you and prepare for you and you let down your end of the bargain in letting down your word. Now you know the value of your words and honor if you'd make a reservation at a place like this then back out. A restaurant of this caliber is not for everyone but it’s there for those who can appreciate it, afford it and respect what it offers. I promise no one wants you there if you don’t want to be there. Just don’t make a reservation you can’t keep.

        August 17, 2010 at 10:32 am |
      • EK

        @ the2chefs

        The "NO FOOD is worth..." part was a quote from wolverine's comment.

        My point was that some of us feel there are foods worth that much, and (fortunately) wolverine doesn't get to make that choice for us.

        But you and me? We're on the same page.

        August 17, 2010 at 10:46 am |
  24. TAMMY

    That is really stupid

    August 17, 2010 at 2:55 am |
    • EK

      We're talking about a restaurant where nobody would try to walk in, and the bill for a table of four will almost always be over $1,000. A reservation that doesn't show is a substantial amount of lost money that cannot be recovered. It isn't as if this sort of food can be stuck in the fridge and served the next day. That empty table is just straight-up lost revenue.

      What is really stupid is expecting a business owner to absorb the lost revenue. It isn't as if you can get a reservation at this quality of place by calling at 3PM and saying "I'd like a table for four at 6:30 tonight..."

      August 17, 2010 at 9:38 am |
  25. Jon Galt

    If its a posted policy, then so be it. However, if I am kept waiting when I arrive, do I get a discount?

    August 16, 2010 at 10:52 pm |
    • Jim Hander

      You will not be kept waiting at Alinea or similar restaurants like the French Laundry, Per Se, etc. Alinea has 20 tables and books them in such a way that no one is kept waiting. They won a James Beard award for Best Service in the U.S. and were named the # 1 restaurant in America twice. All the posters who are saying they should just take a walk in or that this is unfair are comparing this place to a corner diner. It is different than that.

      August 17, 2010 at 7:51 am |
  26. Will

    Although I've never eaten at Alinea, apparently it can take months to get a reservation. It also sounds like they can only seat a limited number of tables each evening. Obviously you don't just walk in to this restaurant for dinner, so that suggestion that the restaurant could just seat someone else is silly. I don't think its unreasonable to charge a no-show fee for this. That no-show cost the restaurant revenue which can't be regained.

    August 16, 2010 at 7:13 pm |
  27. moondoggie

    I don't understand their menu.

    August 16, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
    • EK

      You have two choices with their menu. You can get the tasting menu, or the tour menu. You get all of the things listed on the menu you choose, and you are charged one fixed price. It isn't like most restaurants, where one person gets a steak, someone else chooses the salmon, someone else goes for the grilled chicken... You choose one multi-course meal or the other.

      I haven't been to Alinea, but typically in this sort of restaurant you tell them in advance which choice you want, and-for reasons of timing and presentation-everybody at the table has to make the same choice.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:06 am |
  28. HC

    I had reservations at Alinea around Valentine's Day several years ago. We were kept waiting in the entryway (there's no bar) for 3/4 hour with the door opening frequently, providing a lovely sub-zero draft customary for February in Chicago.

    if the restaurant's policy is going to be so strict about canceling reservations shouldn't we have received a percentage off of our bill for being kept waiting? Despite the wonderful food I'd never go back.

    August 16, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
  29. Eric

    "This is entirely different from a performance, a game, or any other event in that the event, whatever it is, will go on regardless of my attendance."

    Yes, but the game or event doesn't give refunds so they're not in a hole even if you choose to leave your seat empty.

    "Is a restaurant going to cook meals for my entire party without our ordering them? Will the table they had earmarked for me remain empty until their next reservation?"

    Yes, because this is prix fixe menu restaurant. They only take X number of reservations and serve X number of meals. If they knew you weren't going to show, they could have prepared only X-1 meals instead of wasting presumably very expensive ingredients.

    Or will the restaurant simply not cook the food I don't order, give the table to another patron after my party doesn't show after a certain amount of time and continue to make money that way.

    Nope, because there will be no other patrons to sell the meals to. Maybe not all food is cooked and some can be salvaged, although much of restaurant work is prepped beforehand based on nightly estimates and that stuff will go to waste.

    "If I make a reservation for a party of 5, and we attend at the reserved time so as to not back out of our reservation, but then we all order the cheapest items on the menu, wouldn't the restaurant be better off if we bailed on the reservation and let another party, who would potentially order more expensive items, have our slot?"

    Again, its a prix fixe menu based on set number of reservations per night. Remember the context of the story. Why are people comparing this situation to as if Applebees charged you $100 for missing a reservation. That's not what happened.

    Keep in mind that Alinea doesn't have the luxury of other patrons just coming in to fill those spots. Let's say you wanted to go there was told it was fully booked. You probably wouldn't just wait until the day of and try to wander into a $200/pp restaurant on a whim. And even if they called you to tell you a spot opened up, you would likely have made other arrangements considering that meal was likely a high-end business mtg, special occasion, etc.

    So it's fair to say that a no-show in Alinea's case is an absolute loss of revenue that's almost unlikely to be replaced.

    August 16, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
    • scribe

      Thank you. You saved me the trouble of responding to that mentally challenged person. I think Justin's reading comprehension skills are lacking.

      August 16, 2010 at 6:33 pm |
    • Torias

      Very well stated. I work in a much lower-class restaraunt, and when customers place orders and 10 minutes after placing the order, they call back and cancel the order, we can't charge them and we just wasted all of the product we used to make the order. No-shows equal loss of revenue, which ultimately increases the price of food at restaraunts. When you waste food, in order to be profitable, you have to increase the price of the food to recover the loss of the wasted product. I see and track what we waste each week, and we are on the lower end of the spectrum and cancelled orders don't affect us as much, but it does hit us. A restaraunt like Alinea, one meal cancellation could do massive damage to the bottom line for a night.

      August 16, 2010 at 9:13 pm |
  30. Krystal

    of coarse they should charge for a missed reservation. This isn't Chili's. This is a restaurant that you have to book weeks in advance. The are holding those tables for you. sometimes you will even have to place your order (meaning the food and not just the table) weeks in advance so they can spend the hours it takes to roast and prep so your dinner is ready for you shortly after you arrive.
    This is fine dining, people. You're not going to Outback, you're going to Alinea.

    August 16, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
  31. Eric

    A reservation can be whatever the restaurant and patron agree on. It's really irrelevant whether some restaurants take walk-ins, maintain a waiting list, or charge for no-shows.

    If they were able to charge the person, presumably by credit card, it means they were asked for the cc# and told of a cancellation policy when the reservation was made. Yes, $100 might sound steep but regardless of what the amt was, the patron making the reservation knew about it and chose to disregard it. Now if the patron wasn't told of the cancellation policy (although that wouldn't explain how he got charged), that's another thing.

    August 16, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
    • JamesinPGH

      Completely agree. I recently made reservations at French Laundry and, when I was giving them my credit card over the phone to hold it, it was explained to me that they have this cancellation fee. If you have a problem with this, then you should have stopped when you were giving your CC info to them. I mean, seriously, if you are going to a place where the total bill for the table will be around or even over $1000, you can't expect them to just hold reservations and lose out on money because you didn't feel like showing up (or whatever excuse you have...). No one needs to "protect" the consumer in this cases.. deal with it and make reservations at Applebee's if you don't want to play by their rules.

      August 17, 2010 at 9:58 am |
    • Tisha

      Exactly! If they tell you up fornt there's a fee, and you have something against that, don't make the reservation!

      Now, if they didn't warn you of a no-show fee, then you probably have a case, legally. (though skipping out on a reservation without calling is still very inconsiderate and rude. Whatever happened to basic politeness and consideration?)

      August 17, 2010 at 10:24 am |
    • dp

      finally someone with some since, I don't even go to these places yet understand why they would need to charge a fee and also know that they tell you upfront. And yes if you don't want to get charged automatically NEVER give anyone, anyplace, your CC info.
      If you don't like it don't go to these places

      August 17, 2010 at 10:40 am |
  32. Merewyn

    During the current recession, this shouldn't even be an issue, as most Americans can't afford to eat in places like this anyway. *grumbles at CNN for their lack of sensitivity*

    August 16, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
    • Mary

      Oh please. Just because you can't afford to eat at a nice place like this, doesn't mean that neither can anyone else. I'm not rich, but I plan to enjoy dinner at 2 michelin star restaurants next week.

      August 16, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
      • Merewyn

        I didn't say "me," I said the majority of America. I'm simply commenting on the fact that this article caters to a select minority of Americans, and is completely irrelevant for the majority, who can't even consider eating at said restaurants to be an option right now. It makes it seem as if CNN doesn't understand the average people. I'm beginning to think that journalism in general has lost touch with the real people who are very much effected by the economy, politics, etc.

        August 17, 2010 at 9:56 am |
      • gadzilla

        la di da

        August 17, 2010 at 7:27 pm |
    • craigal

      So you're saying that every news story must be pertinent to the average person? Seriously? You must not frequent the international, religion, or tech sections of this website very often.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:10 am |
    • ZRS

      Wait, you're saying that just because not everyone can afford to go, a major news outlet shouldn't mention a restaurant that many people think is the best in the country and one of the best in the world because it, what, hurts people's feelings?

      Just trying to wrap my head around that.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:18 am |
  33. Fuyuko

    I'm punctual and have never missed a dinner reservation. EVER. If for some reason I was going to, I would call.

    August 16, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  34. Justin

    A reservation is a declaration of intent – When i make a reservation at a restaurant, I'm stating my intent to eat there at the time reserved and order something off of their menu. That does not in any way bind me to attend no matter what, or to even inform them of changed plans (it's polite to inform them, but not bound). This is entirely different from a performance, a game, or any other event in that the event, whatever it is, will go on regardless of my attendance.
    Is a restaurant going to cook meals for my entire party without our ordering them? Will the table they had earmarked for me remain empty until their next reservation? Or will the restaurant simply not cook the food I don't order, give the table to another patron after my party doesn't show after a certain amount of time and continue to make money that way.
    Also, a reservation is in no way a guaranteed amount of money. If I make a reservation for a party of 5, and we attend at the reserved time so as to not back out of our reservation, but then we all order the cheapest items on the menu, wouldn't the restaurant be better off if we bailed on the reservation and let another party, who would potentially order more expensive items, have our slot?
    The idea that a potential dinner patron is bound to pay any restaurant any amount of money – without their ordering or receiving any food – is simply ludicrous. The logical counter to this idea is to charge restaurants for excessive periods of waiting for food to be prepared and served – however the patron wants to define excessive. If this consideration were part of this scheme to charge customers for not attending, it would at least be somewhat closer to rational. Somewhat.

    August 16, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
    • Vince

      Jeez... Some of these restaurateurs act as if resturants are on the "endangered species list". I'll do my best to cancel a reservation... it's the right thing to do. But I won't tolerate "attuitude" from any resurant about a reservation. There are plenty of excellent reasturants out there!

      August 16, 2010 at 7:26 pm |
      • Diner

        sure, that's fine and all but you might want to look up what it is you are talking about. The table stands empty until the next reservation and represents a lost opportunity. I have cancelled an Alinea reservation, 24hrs in advance and received a follow up e-mail asking if I wanted to book another. They recognized that it was an anniversary and specifically asked if there was another large event that I wanted to celebrate with them. I would say that this place does not give attitude and are the most customer service oriented place in Chicago.

        August 17, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
    • gtgs

      I couldn't agree more. People nowadays feel they have to pay for everything. Even if they are not receiving anything. pretty soon they are going to wanna pay for each breath they take.

      August 17, 2010 at 8:02 am |
    • Kyle

      you missed the point. its a price fixed menu. meaning you can't go in and buy the cheapest item on the menu, they all cost the same. and they can't just put someone at your table. they only take reservations. this means no walk ins. this means when you make a reservation, no one will be allowed to sit at you for an hour and a half or two hours other than you. by you not showing up and not informing them, they have lost however many people in your party times the price of the price fixed menu. because they have such a long wait for reservations, that is a true loss because if you had called, they would have filled in your open spot. maybe people should take responsibility for their actions and stop just thinking about me me me all the time.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:01 am |
    • Denise

      You miss the point. A resturant like the one mentioned above does not take walk-ins and does not have prices on the menu. There is a set price per person say $200. And you order what is availible that night. The chef creates something different everytime so to not bore people. So if your party of 5 doesn't show that is a loss of $1000 for the owners regardless of what you ordered.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:12 am |
    • Jason

      How about a Hotel reservation. Same principle and they charge you if you don't cancel 24 hrs before arrival.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:25 am |
    • dp

      if you are going to go to extra fancy restaurants then you should expect this and adhere to it. You are costing them money but not showing, so yes you should be charged. Like a hotel if you don't cancel in 48 hours before show time you are charged with by reserving you promised that you would do business there and they have counted your money you also kept them from making money off of someone else so yeah if you can't do it in a timely way don't do it, or you should pay. Don't do top tier if you can't afford it.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:35 am |
    • Kat

      You sound like a lawyer - or wannabe lawyer. The fact is this is well-known to be a reservation only restaurant with a limited menu each night. Which means they cook enough to serve the people they expect. And if you get a reservation, someone else does not.

      Why is it allowable for doctors to charge patients who are no-shows, but restaurants cannot? Wake up. You are so self-absorbed that you don't even care about the problems you are causing by not showing up. As someone noted, they have specific setting times. And likely that table is reserved later on in the evening - so even if they called someone to take your place, that party would arrive too late to use the available table.

      Get over yourself - do what you say you INTEND to do and be done with it. And don't hide behind your AMEX card in the process - because I can guarantee you that AMEX won't hesitate to screw YOU when they can!!

      I hope this restaurant makes sure it's policy of charging no-shows is very clearly stated publicly. If if not before, I hope they make sure it is now. I'm behind them 100%. With a husband who's a GM at a resort and a son who is also in the hospitality industry, I can tell you it's hard enough to make a living without these idiots trying to run the show.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:48 am |
    • Cthulhu

      E X C U S E.

      Excuses for being rude are not longer acceptable.

      August 17, 2010 at 11:09 am |
  35. Hannah

    I don't see a problem with a restaurant charging for a missed reservation as long as they let you know about the fee when you make the reservation.

    August 16, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
    • amayda

      I would agree with Hannah. As long as they let you know there was going to be a no-show charge, then its up to you to make sure you don't incur that fee. What is the point of making a reservation if you aren't really planning on showing up?

      August 16, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
      • fees

        I agree. As it's been stated. If you make reservations for the theater/play you "pay up front" i.e. buy tickets. if you don't show, you lost the money, not the production. I feel the same should hold for dinner, so long as you are told before hand.

        August 17, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
    • Jaime

      I agree as well. If this is a posted policy, you can't really complain. I don't usually eat at places that require a reservation, and most of the places I do make reservations at, it's because I have a large party and it's a nicer restaurant. I've never no-showed those, I wouldn't want to leave my friends in the lurch.

      August 16, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
    • Cthulhu

      Seriously, all of this notification crap is nonsense. People need to be responsible for their actions, not someone else. There has been far too much catering to the idiots and rude people of our society. The only way to put a stop to it is to start charging them for it.

      August 17, 2010 at 11:06 am |
    • Laura

      And I can't imagine it's not a posted policy when they obviously make you provide credit card info just to make a reservation.

      August 17, 2010 at 11:06 am |
  36. Samantha

    If you take the time to make a reservation, it must be a place you want to dine at...but $100 fee for not canceling your reservation?! If the reservation wait list is so long, why not call someone on that list and tell them you have an available table for the evening? Or even let someone walk into your establishment.

    August 16, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
    • Tisha

      THe problem is, they don't know you're not going to show up. If they wait, say, until you are 15 minutes late, and then call the next person on the wait list, that person won't have time to get there before it's way too late to get them in and out before the next person who has reserved that table.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:20 am |
    • TheMovieFan

      Thanks, Tish, you beat me to it. Also, potential diners will most likely have made alternative plans.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:48 am |
    • Cthulhu

      Placing the burden for no shows upon the establishment? You must feel entitled.

      August 17, 2010 at 11:03 am |
    • Laura

      If the restaurant loses more than $100 because you fail to show up for a reservation then it's completely legitimate. You entered into an agreement (and in this case a binding contract) with the establishment to show up and spend your money. By not showing up you've deprived them of anticipated income that would have been filled if you had called to cancel.

      Same goes for a doc's office. Had you canceled your appointment they could have seen another patient and earned money. By just not showing you're depriving them of their livelihood.

      It's simple. If you don't want to pay for not showing up then A) don't make a reservation, B) call to cancel, or C) show up. The restaurant isn't there to serve you. They are there to make money, plain and simple. Yes, they do that by providing good products and good service, but that's not an excuse to be inconsiderate and deprive them of their earnings.

      August 17, 2010 at 11:04 am |
      • Jesse

        Your statement should have read the restaurant isn't there to serve only you. After all food service is still a service industry.

        August 17, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  37. Drach

    it sounds as if this restaurant is resevation only if a no show costs them 5% of their nightly business. in such a situation i see no issue with them charging someone for not arriving. some doctors, dentists and optometrists have a no show charge as well.

    August 16, 2010 at 3:07 pm |
    • pneuma

      Especially since $100 won't even cover the cost of a single diner at Alinea.

      August 16, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
  38. NJH

    you dont get any sort of refund when the restaurant loses your reservation do you? this is crap. same thing with rental car companies... how many times do they say you will be charged for missing your reservation, but you are supposed to "just deal with it" when they botch things up on their side... complete crap.

    August 16, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
    • EK

      Restaurants like Alinea very, very rarely bollocks up reservations. If you were to encounter such a situation, you would experience butt-kissing on such a level it would have to be purple and dropped by a boss to be any more epic. This sort of establishment will go far beyond anything you have ever seen to make right a mistake on their part, because they cannot afford to risk their reputation.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:40 am |
  39. JeR

    If it's reservations only then yes I'll call to cancel. If walk-ins are welcome, then I probably won't bother.

    August 16, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
  40. TEA

    Once I forgot a lunch reservation at a WDW restaurant. My family was having so much fun and apparently no one felt hungry enough to notice it was lunch time. A couple of hours after our reservation time I started feeling hungry and glanced at my watch to see if it would be time for lunch soon. Oh no! Oops, we missed lunch.

    The only other time I can remember missing a reservation was when I slept through one. I had a headache and stretched out on the bed with my eyes closed for a 15 minute rest to give the ibuprofen a chance to work. I woke up several hours later, still feeling awful and realized that I had missed dinner reservations with friends. At least they went.

    August 16, 2010 at 2:28 pm |
    • TheMovieFan

      My family and I go to Disney every summer and getting dinner reservations even 6 months in advance for Le Cellier at EPCOT is quite difficult. We end up making lunch reservations. Last year as we were leaving after lunch, the head waiter told us that they had a bunch of no shows the previous evening. That really ticked me off.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:46 am |
  41. Bill

    What a load of garbage. While I sympathize with the restaurant, how about just letting the table go to someone else if the reserving party is not there within 15 minutes of their reservation? Hopefully 'violin' used AMEX, and can easily dispute the charge successfully.

    August 16, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
    • pneuma

      Alinea is the best restaurant in the country. I would be pretty surprised if they take walk-ins. You have to make your reservations weeks or months in advance. This is not the kind of place you just pop in for dinner.

      August 16, 2010 at 4:10 pm |
    • Chan

      It's prix-fixe and limited tablings per night. You can't just walk in off the street and get a table. Ever. It does nto work that way. Nor can you hold a reservation for 15 minutes before giving the table away. There is one menu (chef's choice basically) and the price is fixed to that menu. (usually around $60-$150/person plus beverages and gratuity)If they do seatings at 6:30, 8:00 and 8:30, that's what time you can eat. Yes, it's a pain in the butt but it's's a serving model designed around leisurely dining and extreme high quality. There is no rush to get you out the door or assembly-line food-prep in the kitchen.

      August 16, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
    • wailua chef

      You obviously don't sympathize with the restaurant, and thinking they can "just let the table go to someone else" is self-centered and ignorant. Like someone is just standing there waiting, in the event you don't show up for your commitment. What about the people that were turned away because the restaurant held the table for you? I see this over and over again, particularly on holidays. You don't show at my restaurant, I'm charging you. Don't like it? Eat at home.

      August 17, 2010 at 3:12 am |
      • SW

        If you do charge me, I'll dispute the card on my credit card, celebrate when the charge is removed, never patronize your restaurant again, discourage everyone I know from eating at your restaurant and trash your establishment on every restaurant review website known to man. Vindictive? Perhaps. Totally deserved? Most definitely.

        August 17, 2010 at 9:58 am |
      • dp

        SW is a child, not able to take responsibility for his actions and commitments. This is what is wrong with this country honoring one's word means nothing people lie and smile about it. You go to a fancy restaurant then you know up from about fees etc, pay them when you don't do your part.

        August 17, 2010 at 10:29 am |
      • antoniah

        SW–how unfair! Totally UNdeserved. You are at full liberty to not holding up to reservations. Just don't make any! Why bother? Either you do want to go to that special restaurant (and follow the rules) or select other restaurants (there are a heap of them) who do not require a reservations. It is way too simple to sweat over it. Just don't bug other people down (restaurant owners and other patrons who are willing to stand by the rules which are just a couple: (1) make a reservation and (2) show up.

        August 17, 2010 at 10:34 am |
      • MACT

        For a chance to eat at a restaurant of this caliber, I would like to see ‘standby’ seats, just like the airlines. I show up at 8:00. By 8:15 any 8:00 no show seats are given to the standby customers. Yes SW is self-centered and seems to believe that actions have no consequences.

        August 17, 2010 at 10:38 am |
      • Cthulhu

        SW – if your friends are as rude, inconsiderate and nasty as you are, good riddance. Maybe one day you will learn some manners, but I seriously doubt it.

        August 17, 2010 at 10:59 am |
      • SW

        Suck it, folks. They're called opinions.

        August 17, 2010 at 11:05 am |
      • antoniah

        SW, your words do a bit more than come across as a plain opinion. It sounds rather like a threat. That even if someone failed them by not canceling a reservation they chose to make, had it been you, you'd do all in your power to do as much damage as you can. That knocks the wind out of my lungs because it is super sad to think people would go that far.

        August 17, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
      • SW

        If the threat (yes, threat) of retribution toward a restaurant that you have no connection to whatsoever (yes, assumption) is all it takes to "knock the wind out of your lungs," then you must be incredibly, tragically sensitive. I state that without malice. It's just . . . an opinion.

        August 17, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
      • Amazed at SW's stupidity

        SW – you make a reservation at a place that TELLS you they have a cancellation policy. You don't show, you get charged. You've essentially made a contract with that restaurant. So when you don't show, they charge your CC. Would hope that your credit card company, after discussing it with the establishment, would realize you're the numbnut in the situation and tell you the charge stands. Your vindictive response to the restaurant is typical of someone who is all about the me, me, me! and you don't give a damn about anyone else. Shame on your parents for raising such an entitled little brat.

        August 17, 2010 at 2:52 pm |
      • Chuckling At Your Ridiculous Outrage

        See name.

        August 17, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
    • Waiter

      I have worked in the industry, and it bothers me the way patrons treat establishments. Obviously the restaurant got the credit card, and made it quite clear that if they didn't show, they would be charged. When they dispute the charge, the restaurant will show their policy, and that a card Number was willingly provided. That was tacit acceptance of their policy. And as SW stated, trash the restaurant to his friends, well he probably doesn't have any. Any self respecting people would laugh at him, call and make a reservation, and be glad to eat at a top restaurant.

      August 17, 2010 at 10:46 am |
      • SW

        I love how you take a comment on a website and turn it into a blanket assumption about the friends a person has or doesn't have. You should probably take a deep breath and step away from the computer before you sprain something. I'll step aside now so you can fire back with a long-winded, arrogant reply that you hope ingratiates you to the other commenters.

        August 17, 2010 at 11:09 am |
    • Mic Check

      Ok so next time I make a reservation for 8 and I have to wait at the bar for a table past 8 I should get money for every minute I have to wait? It doesn't always work that way. First I do not make a habit of missing a reservation but it has happened before. If the charged me for it I would not only have the charge revered I would report the unauthorized charge as theft. I have never been to Alinea twice and to my knowledge was never told of this charge should I miss a reservation.

      August 17, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
      • Drizzunk

        You're really dumb, dude. If the restaurant has your cc number, you've obviously given it to them. Ergo, no theft, and you'll be charged.

        September 15, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
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