What Really Happens If You Don't Cancel A Restaurant Reservation

We've all been there: Making a dinner reservation at 7 p.m. only for the kids' basketball practice to run overtime, getting stuck at work, or taking a peek at the bank account and suddenly realizing cooking seems like the better option. For a lot of us, it's easy to think, "This is a busy restaurant, they won't even notice if we don't show up." But in reality, restaurants put a lot of time, energy, and livelihood into every little detail that makes things run smoothly.

"We always put our best foot forward for diners, so when they don't show up, it's a slap in the face," Ani Meinhold of Miami-based Viet-Cajun restaurant Phuc Yea tells OpenTable. While diners typically think not showing up won't have an outstanding effect on a busy restaurant, what they fail to realize is that it can have a detrimental ripple effect on the business. For example, if a restaurant is fully booked for the night and 20% of those penciled in don't come, that can result in hundreds of pre-calculated dollars lost for the restaurant.

Moreover, no-shows affect the restaurant's supply chain. If a restaurant is expecting a certain amount of people to come that evening, it's part of their job to ensure that there's enough food to serve everyone. When those numbers don't show up, food is wasted, resulting in the restaurant eventually not ordering as much from farms, who, in the long run, also end up losing profit.

How to handle canceling a restaurant reservation

As much as none of us actually want to ghost on a restaurant reservation, we can't evade the fact that sometimes, life happens. Restaurants prepare for cancellations, so by canceling as far in advance as possible, you're giving that establishment a chance to potentially make up for it by scheduling another customer. Many people find themselves embarrassed when it comes to canceling, so it can be tempting to try and make up an elaborate excuse. The truth is that restaurants have heard it all before, so in cases like this, honesty is the best policy. The ideal thing to do is call the restaurant as far ahead of time as you can and ask to reschedule. Most restaurants are understanding and will do what they can to assist you.

Another great option is to give your reservation to someone else. This way, the restaurant doesn't suffer any losses for the day, while still having the opportunity to show a party a wonderful dining experience. What's more, passing off the reservation is to your advantage. Many restaurant reservation apps keep track of the reservations you cancel or don't show up to, and after a certain number of times is reached, you will be banned from the app. Ultimately, taking the time to cancel the moment you know you can't make it — or giving the reservation to someone else — shows a great deal of respect to an establishment, which can mean the world to restaurant workers.