In Montreal, the restaurant industry relies on many factors to support the 3000+ restaurants that operate in the city. In the last few years that industry has been put through the ringer with rising costs, perpetual construction and a municipal government that antagonizes more than it helps. It’s safe to say that these guys don’t need more problems but unfortunately it doesn’t stop there. We all love to eat wonderfully prepared food in a pleasant environment and be served by professional wait staff, sommeliers and their hardworking support staff. Without these wonderful people and the environment they create for us, we would have no choice but eat at home night after night.
We have become a city of educated eaters, a group of people whose demand for professionalism in restaurants is at its pinnacle whether we are eating at a five star restaurant or at our favourite place around the corner. If something goes wrong we notice, we’re not happy and we remember. One thing we must also remember its that respect is a street that runs both ways. We can’t sit at our favourite table and demand courtesy when we are not prepared to offer that same courtesy in return.
A restaurant with a limited number of tables will gladly take our reservations in good faith, asking simply for our name and phone number to confirm the reservation. Restaurants around Montreal often book up fast and those reservations become an estimation of how much food to buy and prepare and how much staff to call in if the night appears like its going to be busy. Restauranteurs and chefs must extrapolate from our reservations and, again, in good faith invest in our promise to come and enjoy their hard work.
Not cancelling or forgetting to cancel a reservation in a timely manner isn’t a new problem for restaurants but it is a persistent one. We call up our favourite places or a new place that we want to try and somewhere between the time we reserve and the time we are supposed to show up, we make the conscious decision to not go anymore. It’s normal that things happen that cause our plans to change but not calling to cancel means that table will be reserved for you until the decision is made to let someone else take it. That table has been prepared to astound the patrons that they are expecting but all too often the table is left empty because the person that reserved it didn’t have the courtesy to call and cancel.
It takes only a minute to place the call, write a message on the restaurant’s Facebook page or cancel through an app or the restaurant’s website. It’s out of a lack of respect, pure laziness and complete disregard for civility that we think its ok to just let it go. It’s a piss-off when we’re told by restaurant owners that tables of 12-48 people were a no-show. Whether we are two people or 30, not letting the restaurant know we are not coming is not cool and it makes us assholes. Not cancelling reaches far beyond just pissing someone off. We are creating waste and we are creating immense expense that restaurants don’t need (on top of all the taxes and fees that our city enforces).
Calling to cancel means giving someone else the chance to enjoy a meal. It also means giving the restaurant a chance realign their plans, saving on costs and reducing waste. It’s not the restaurant’s responsibility to confirm with us. They have enough to do as it is. Is there a solution to this problem? Maybe restaurants should charge a base fare for no-shows or for canceling under a certain period of time. People would be fare less likely to forget to call if they had a consequence to suffer.
Cooking and creating food is a passion that many of us share with the people who prepare meals that amaze us. This passion stokes the fire in us that pushes us out of our comfort zones in a way that no other experience can. Part of our culture is created around the tables and food that inspire us and we can’t take for granted that they will always be there. Showing these people and their restaurants the respect that we demand isn’t going above and beyond, it’s our responsibility and it’s the right thing to do.
Image credit: David Major-Lapierre