Could booking a table be a thing of the past? One thing is certain, customers who do not honor their reservations cost restaurants dearly. Commonly referred to as no-show, the scourge results in annual losses of almost $50,000 on average for the establishments that are confronted with it.

For a franchised restaurant, the amounts lost are estimated at approximately $62,000, while for an independent restaurant they would reach $43,000. Nearly 65.6% of restaurateurs say that the number of tables left empty by customers who ask them a rabbit is constantly increasing, reveal the results of a survey conducted by the Association Restauration Québec (ARQ).

Due to the scale of the scourge, the ARQ surveyed its members in January in order to be able to quantify the financial losses caused by non-honored reservations. A first. These are the few data available on the subject, confirms Martin Vézina, vice-president of public and governmental affairs at the ARQ. La Presse was able to consult the results of this survey entitled Le no show et l’industrie de la restauration.

In light of this data, the Association wishes to have one more argument to convince the government to allow restaurateurs to charge penalties to recalcitrant customers. She questions herself in the wake of the survival of the classic model of reservations.

“In the event that the number of failed reservations continues to grow, it is highly likely that the number of restaurants accepting reservations will decrease,” reads the ARQ Stats newsletter for members. Thus, establishments have decided, for example, to no longer welcome groups, others, on the contrary, only accept reservations for tables made up of six or more guests.

For the moment, it is still possible for customers to reserve a table in 94% of establishments in Quebec. Among those who refuse to do so, 66.7% made this decision in order to avoid being confronted with cases of no-show.

If they are not ready to close their reservation book permanently, some restaurateurs have for their part reviewed the rules of the game in the way they welcome their customers. In Chambly, at the La Cochonne Rit restaurant, we say we are “cautious” with groups of 10 people or more, admits manager Philippe Michaud.

“Very large groups are very time-consuming,” he says. Often they arrive, they are more than expected or even fewer than expected. Sometimes they cancel at the last minute, sometimes they don’t show up. »

“Rather than mortgage an entire evening with groups, we prefer to save space for our regular customers. It is really to them that we want to give priority. We want to be sure that there is room for our regular customers who come to see us every week. »

On the Satay Brothers side, on Notre-Dame Street in Montreal, only groups of six or more people can reserve. For smaller tables, we operate on a first-come, first-served basis, explains co-owner Alex Winnicki.

“People are often late for their reservations,” he also mentions. If, every time we had tables open, we had to wait after two people had reservations while during that time there were people showing up at the door and ready to eat, it would become difficult to manage. »

“We like to keep a lot of tables open,” he says, calling it a “two-tier system.”

“I think everyone in the restaurant business would like to revise the booking model a bit, especially to be able to protect themselves. But booking is still necessary. There are many restaurateurs who will want to take reservations to ensure a minimum of customers. »

The ARQ shares the same point of view: the reservation remains the best tool for managing employees and commodities. This is why she is campaigning for “having a legal framework allowing a penalty to be imposed when a customer does not show up for his reservation”. This fine would be approximately $20. For the moment, the law does not allow restaurateurs to impose this kind of penalty.

“What is prohibited is to fix in advance [in writing or verbally] an amount that would be due if the customer does not honor the contract”, explained to La Presse, a few months ago, Charles Tanguay , spokesperson for the Consumer Protection Office (OPC). “One of the principles of law underlying Article 13 is that no one is supposed to take justice into his own hands, that one cannot arbitrarily fix the amount of any damages himself”, he adds.

Meetings have taken place since January between the ARQ and the OPC. “The file is under study, but there is an opening to consider our solution, which could take the form of a law or regulation,” says Martin Vézina. The latter maintains that the file could be settled by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, restaurateurs are multiplying strategies to prevent customers from failing them. Some even go so far as to draw up a blacklist of people known to not honor their reservations. Others, as was the case with the restaurant Les vilains Garçons, publicly denounce on Facebook the fact that a customer has not shown up, reported the daily Le Droit in February. Some establishments require a credit card number and charge a fee if the customer does not show up. A practice however illegal, at least for the moment.

“[What we are proposing] is a solution that is simple and that will perhaps avoid overflows,” argues Martin Vézina.

Some numbers

32.9 %

Proportion of restaurateurs frequently confronted with the scourge

44.5 %

Proportion of restaurateurs who are confronted with it on occasion

2.8 %

Proportion of restaurateurs who never face cases of no-show

65.6 %

Proportion of respondents who state that the phenomenon is on the increase

Bar offering food: $595

Restaurant in a hotel: $1150

Franchise : 1196 $

Independent restaurant: $832

Overall average: $943