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Ditch a reservation? Sault restaurants may soon charge you for it

Restaurant owners, food supplier, miffed over recent increase in 'forgotten' reservations, last minute cancellations from customers
restaurant reservation stock

The Sault’s restaurant owners and staff (as we know, there are a lot of them!) enjoy serving the public, but some of them are starting to ask for a little consideration in return.

#RespectTheRestaurant is a movement which has sprung up in southern Ontario and is now catching on up north.

Restaurant owners are urging customers to honour reservations they have made, and to give sufficient advance notice if they won’t be able to make it.

Missed reservations and last minute cancellations cost restaurant owners money in staff and food, particularly on special occasions such as Valentine’s Day.

It can indeed be a problem, said Brandi Bell, Embers Grill & Smokehouse co-owner and general manager, speaking to SooToday.

Her husband Shayne Bell is co-owner and chef at Embers, located at 531 Albert Street East.

The couple also owns and operates The Barrelhouse at 476 Queen Street East.

“On Valentine’s Day we had 42 tables altogether and seven of them were no shows, so that was 17 per cent of our tables didn’t show up, and that’s a huge cut,” Bell said.

“When we called them, they all said they had forgotten they made the reservations . . . when you’re a small family owned business trying to take care of your own family and trying to help your employees take care of their families, it’s hard.”

“We could have had other people make reservations.”

“We ordered extra product, we had extra staff on, we prepped extra product, we brought in all these specialty items . . . they don’t think of the owners, of the people who own the business.”

“We were very disappointed, we work hard, we’re a young couple running two businesses,” said Bell, who employs about 20 staff.

Bell said “forgotten” reservations seem to have increased over the past year.

“We’ve heard some people make reservations at multiple restaurants, and then they’ll decide last minute which one they’ll go to and forget about the other ones . . . it’s heart wrenching when you put everything you have into this.”

Bell said local restaurant owners have been in contact with each other over the past few days in regard to the possibility of requiring a deposit from customers who make reservations.

The problem seems to be especially bad in the Sault, said John Mitchell, Flanagan Foodservice territory manager.

Flanagan, with offices in Kitchener and Sudbury, supplies more than 6,000 restaurants and foodservice operations across Ontario, including 108 restaurants and food services in the Sault. 

“People call in and make a reservation, and then they just walk away from it with no repercussions . . . I don’t know if people think about it, I wouldn’t say it’s intentional, it’s just that people don’t understand," what it costs restaurant owners) Mitchell said.

“It costs the operators a lot of money, and the way business has been in the Sault lately, it’s worse this year than any year, and a lot of these guys are small independent operators.”

“What I think should happen is when you make a reservation they should be able to take your credit card number and hold you to $20," if the customer doesn’t honour the reservation and fails to show up without notifying the restaurant.

“What I’m proposing is for all these Sault restaurant owners to get together and say ‘hey, let’s from here on in do reservations with a $20 deposit,’ which you could cancel with up to 48 hours in advance.”

“Most people are good with it (dining where they have made reservations) . . . I travel around a lot and if you go to Toronto or  Niagara Falls, and if you make a reservation on a special night like St. Valentine’s Day they take deposits.  If you don’t show up, your deposit is gone.”

Mitchell said all Sault restaurant owners must get on board with the deposit idea in order for it to work.

“They tried it before in the past, but we’ve got fierce independent owners in the Sault,” Mitchell chuckled.

“I’m just looking to do what I can to help these independent owners.  I don’t lose out because they’ve already bought the product from me, but they’re left with all that product if they lose seven tables and 18 people.”