No Excuses for No-Shows

Waiter Waiting

Waiter Waiting

Chefs are worried all the time. They worry about the quality of the ingredients. They worry about the cost of the ingredients. They worry about the quality and cost of the staff. They worry about consistency — and the price of gas.

But when it’s show time, the executive chef is ready. The chef de cuisine is ready. So are the sous chef and the chef de partie, the line cooks, the poissonier, the saucier, the entremetier, the grill cook, the garde manger chef and even the lowly stagiaire (trainee). They are all ready to get to work. They are ready to suffer heat prostration and burn their hands and experience emotional melt down and fend off an unceasing barrage of abuse while in painstaking pursuit of perfection. They work as a team, minute by minute. Time is of the essence in the kitchen.

The front of the house staff worry too. They agonize that every little teeny tiny thing has been fine-tuned in anticipation of the arrival of the first guests. The crisp tablecloths are carefully placed with the crease in the linen facing up (or is it down?). The crystal is polished until it sparkles. The silver gleams. The flowers are in full bloom. The lights are dimmed just so.

The receptionist is poised: her pen hovers over the reservation book. The bartender stands ready to pour. The wait staff is ready to perform a sublime symphony of synchronous service. For the evening meal, everyone is at his or her appointed place. Everything and everyone is ready.

What if there are 5, 10, 20 or more “no-shows”?

For a small restaurant this can spell the difference between profit and loss, success and failure. Even the finest of the fine establishments suffer irretrievable losses.

Who else loses? The sommelier, who advises. Those who depend on the receiving of tips. Those who were ready to remain vigilant and watchful, fetching and carrying, and delivering directions to the men’s room.

The  losses extend to the busboys who had hoped to bus and the runners who aren’t required to run. The Maitre d’ and Captain who maintain the tempo, beat, rhythm, meter, measure and pacing of the place and the General Manager whose task is to ensure the happiness of all who reside beneath his roof.

Who wins when those without a conscience don’t call to cancel a reservation?


Many a guest, who wouldn’t consider blowing off an appointment with the dentist, the doctor, the hairdresser or the auto repair shop, don’t give a hoot about failing to show up at a restaurant. These miscreants deserve to be reprimanded. A new kind of alert (or phone app?) should be created.

We could take another leaf out of the famous Hollywood madam‘s little black book and post the names of the irresponsible, immoral wretches online. They could be shown, full face on Facebook, LinkedIn or on YouTube. There could an escalating scale of punishment for the no-show offenders.

One failure to show up and the next time she goes to a restaurant she will not be permitted to order a dessert (or sauce on the side).

Two no-shows will result in the doubling of the check at the next meal.

The third offense will require the would-be customer to surrender his or her right to ever again cross the threshold of any of the 535,052 restaurants in the United States.

His name will be registered on a special DO NOT SERVE website for the rest of his natural life plus 44 years.

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