When Montreal restaurants take to social media to grumble about no-shows, it tends to go viral. This first transpired at Tapeo in Villeray, the bygone M sur Masson in Rosemont, and, notably, at a slew of restaurants on Valentine's Day 2015. This week H4C, the respected Place-Saint-Henri restaurant run by chef Dany Bolduc, went public with a similar tale of no-show misery. On Saturday H4C suffered ten no-shows for dinner, and a further 24 (three separate groups, total) for Sunday brunch service. Add another 20 from the week before, for Easter brunch no less, and you have 54 no-shows over two weekends. H4C seats 60; the restaurant estimated that it lost $1,700 in sales this past weekend alone.
"It just makes me sad, to be honest," Bolduc remarked today. "I'm not angry at all, contrary to some comments. What we wanted to do on Facebook was just express how sad it is. Because when that many people reserve at once, we put a lot of effort and time preparing to receive them." Bolduc explained that H4C typically calls to reconfirm the day of, especially for larger groups, but that this past weekend the reservations in question were made the day before. "When you make a reservation fifteen hours in advance, we might not call you back in that case."
One of the no-show culprits was eventually contacted by H4C. "They said, 'Yeah, we're not coming,'" repeated Bolduc. Any hint of shame or remorse? "Nothing." The chef added that in light of these recent episodes, management will take a harder look at its reservation policy, and strive to reconfirm by phone the day of. H4C asks customers who book the restaurant's private room for special events to sign a contract — this option is available to every restaurant when it comes to larger groups. What is not legal, however, but gets proposed every time these incidents go public, involves the use of credit cards. "Yes, restaurant owners can take your credit card number. It makes the reservation more serious. But at the same time it is also true that they cannot charge the card if customers do not show," confirmed Dominique Tremblay, of l'Association des restaurateurs du Québec, in a 2014 interview.
H4C's takeaway? "We'll emphasize reconfirming more and more. That's our responsibility, I'm aware of it," said a chastened Bolduc. "What gets me is it takes one second for a person to call, as opposed to the hours it takes someone here to call everyone back. Otherwise what can restaurants do? Go no reservations like Le Vin Papillon? That's not realistic for everybody."