Friday, March 29

Reservation Confirmation

I saw a Facebook post from a friend the other day that really struck a cord.  He was complaining about having to call a restaurant back to confirm your reservation.

I have to agree, that it's the most annoying part of the process.  I get why some restaurants ask patrons to confirm, dropped reservations and "no-shows" are costly to the operations.  But there's something oddly irritating about having to make that second call.  It just doesn't feel right as part of the overall experience.  And when you add a snippy host to the equation, then the experience is off to a bad start.

I do get it though ... restaurants have to do something to cut down on the "no-shows."

There's a restaurant in LA that has taken it a step further, and they're getting called out on it in the process.

Red Medicine in LA has started tweeting the names of people who bail out on their reservations.  Now in a town like LA where hot ressies are not easy to come by, this could be quite the threat and incentive.  They are actually naming names with a bit of a snark ... nothing like public humiliation to motivate the right behavior.

I do get it though ... but this seems to take it a bit too far, don't you think ... unless this is the experience that they are trying to create?

The customer should be the boss and the entire focus should be on the customers' positive experience.  Sure, if you have people who continually drop off, then address it with them.  Isn't there another way around it?

What do you think?  What's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
- President, Cohn & Wolfe NA
- Author, The Experience Effect series
- Professor, NYU
- Contributor, Entrepreneur


  1. That's a GREAT question. It's a tough balance between "the customer is always right" and expecting common decency from both sides of the "contract"... I own a B&B and we have a similar problem... but our solution is that we take a credit card number to hold the reservation. Maybe rather than the call-back or humiliation options, this restaurant could simply say that they only take reservations with a credit card on hold. If you don't call to cancel or show up, you'll be charged "$x"?

    1. MarathonGal that is a great way of handling the situation, I know if I had my credit card on file I will either show up or call to cancel. Another consideration would be for the restaurant to make the call to confirm. It will take time from other precious tasks, but it reduces the chances that the customer will reach a less-than-polite host. Also if the customer doesn't pick up the phone and doesn't return the call you are within your rights as a business owner to open the table to other patrons.

  2. Now that's a great idea. A somewhat nominal, yet significant enough fee to cancel. Maybe you give people one pass first? Jim.

  3. Certainly address it with the customer. I got stopped by an over-zealous cop this weekend, screaming at me just like a movie. Finally I stood up, turned around and said, "WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?" Maybe I should have been more respectful, but he shut up and started treating me with some consideration. Seems like addressing the person who is causing the problem fixes it the fastest. P.S. The rental car had a tail light out. No lie: he called for back-up and had me surrounded!

  4. Wow. Always important to stay calm and centered, and then reason will win out. Jim.