The chef and owner of Old Montreal Mediterranean restaurant Ikanos appears to have been left fuming after a host of no-show customers failed to show up for reservations on New Year’s Eve.
Constant Mentzas, who opened the McGill Street restaurant in 2014, took to a Facebook group for restaurant staff to vent, noting that even though Ikanos had been fully booked and turning reservations away for weeks before December 31, 18 reservations never arrived.
No shows — customers who make reservations but never show up to a restaurant — are an ongoing issue for Montreal restaurants, and the problem is typically more pronounced on busy occasions such as New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day (for example, last year downtown restaurant La Société reported that one-quarter of its Valentine’s reservations never appeared).
Mentzas clarified to Eater that it was 18 customers (not 18 tables) who failed to show up, representing about one-fifth of the capacity for the evening: a big hit for the restaurant. It included a table of 11 who only one day earlier requested to add four people to their booking. Mentzas wrote that the lost tables accounted for around 35 percent of his fixed costs for the entire week, a quarter of the restaurant’s wages for the week.
It’s also a big hit going into January and February, the quietest months of the year for many — Mentzas said the lost tables were also worth 15 percent of the savings he was hoping the restaurant could make before the quiet winter season. He also called on Quebec’s Restaurant Association to develop some kind of strategy to prevent against losses from no-shows — spokesperson Martin Vézina says that the Association is working with Quebec’s consumer protection office to make it legal for restaurants to charge fees to no-show guests.
Vézina also added that no-shows aren’t just a problem on holidays like New Year’s or Mother’s Day, and many restaurants deal with the problem on a weekly basis.
Ikanos’ New Year’s dilemma wasn’t for a lack of diligence: Mentzas noted that the restaurant confirmed all reservations. Short of selling tickets for the evening, a restaurant can’t do much else to ensure customers show up — restaurants in Quebec can take credit card numbers with reservations, but that’s only a scare tactic, since they aren’t allowed to charge customers who fail to show up (unless there’s a contract in place, which is only viable for larger groups).
It’s obviously not clear why customers fail to show up — but regardless of whether it’s an innocuous reason such as an illness, or something shiftier, like reserving multiple restaurants and making a choice on the day of the reservation, it still results in a loss for restaurants, who often operate on slim profit margins.
Some turn to public shaming — an anonymous Twitter account used to publish the names and partial phone numbers of no-show customers, but it has been mostly inactive in recent years.