Frank's Kitchen, a quiet little candlelit enclave in Little Italy, made a splash over the weekend when a customer felt "browbeaten" by the restaurant after missing a dinner reservation. The diner tells blogTO that he missed the reservation due to a meeting running late. When he didn't show, he received not one but two phone calls from Frank's Kitchen. Says Tummon: "I was wrong for not calling to inform them I would be missing my reservation and the voicemail they left me that night was more than sufficient. It was the second voicemail that was left two days later that was almost two minutes in length that is the real issue here in my opinion." Co-owner Shawn Cooper stands her ground, saying that no-show diners continue to hurt their small business. She tells BlogTO that "Larger restaurants can afford to lose a table or two but the new crop of tiny chef-owned and -operated restaurants simply cannot."
The somewhat vicious back-and-forth between restaurant and patron is nothing new. Last year, the Globe and Mail reported on the "rise of dining aggression." For instance, Toronto chef Jen Agg drew heat for tweeting, "Dear (almost) everyone in here right now. Please, please stop being such a douche." Another tweet before that read, "Dear Table 2: You seem really nice, but you've been 'finishing your drinks,' for like, an hour. It's time. New Table 2 is so cold & hungry." The article cites other restaurants—Red Medicine in Beverly Hills, for instance— that take to Twitter to publicly out diners that miss reservations. Apparently it's a pretty common tack in Australia.
In Frank's Kitchen's defense, their reprimand of Tummon was at least to his private voicemail rather than to the Twitterverse. And to Tummon's credit, he admits his error in not calling to explain to no-show. But what's next for Toronto diners? Unfortunately, many diners play reservation roulette, booking several tables on any given night and just deciding at the moment which one to go with, no-showing on the others. Some of the more stratospheric restaurants in Toronto (such as Momofuku Shoto) will take a credit card deposit to hold a table. If you miss your reservation, you're out $300. Of course, Shoto has the reputation and cultural cache to be able to hold such an incredible charge over the head of potential diners (and when you need to book weeks ahead for the 22-seat show, you probably don't plan on missing it). With the rise of "dining aggression," though, are smaller outfits soon to follow suit? Should no-shows be held accountable by restaurants? If so, how? Let us know what you think in the comments or by emailing email@example.com.
Update: Here's a clarifying update from Frank's Kitchen, sent to Eater via email. "Matt received only one phone call about being a no show. The first call is not a call addressing a no show, it is a call we make to anyone when they are late. We are not at that point even considering that they aren't coming we are just assuming they are late. [...] His quote made everyone think he was called twice about the same thing. Every seat really counts for us and that it does hurt us when this happens. We do equate it with an appointment. We are a business like any other where missed appointments/reservations are lost revenue. [...] We wait a day out of courtesy for the guest to contact us, in case there was an emergency or something completely unforeseeable happened. We would not just blacklist them without giving them the opportunity to contact us and we are very open to that dialogue."
Frank's Kitchen. [Photo: Jonni C.]