How the 'B.C. bail' hurts restaurant owners
It's time to put your money where your mouth is. Restaurants that have been struggling through the pandemic need your support more than ever. If you make a reservation, make sure you show up or give advance noticed to cancel it.
Have you ever heard of the B.C. bail? It's a phrase coined by millennials for bailing out at the last minute.
"The B.C. bail? Now that you say it, it definitely makes sense," said Ben Hunter, regional director for Aburi Restaurants Canada. "Born and bred, I can definitely see that, skating off at the last second. I definitely know that, for myself and a lot of my friends," he said with a chuckle.
It may be OK to bail on your friends but Hunter feels the pain when customers bail on restaurants after making a reservation.
"We staff according to what we know in the day," he said. In addition, they prep accordingly too, which means no-shows and cancellations can lead to food waste.
When a restaurant gets a bunch of no-shows it can greatly affect its bottom line, especially in smaller venues.
"A six top that no shows a restaurant can wipe out an entire night's profit," explained Matt Davis, OpenTable's Canada director.
The online reservation booking website and app has now launched the new "Show-up for Restaurants" campaign. New features include a way for restaurants to tag diners who are habitual no-shows – four strikes in a year and you're out. There are also direct messaging features, notifications and alerts designed to help reduce cancellations and no-shows.
"Give us a heads up. Let us know you're not coming," said Hunter.
Ideally, 24 hours is best.
Some restaurants like Vancouver's L’Abattoir and St. Lawrence are now doing prepaid, prefixed menu bookings. St. Lawrence also charges a $25 cancellation fee per guest and its owner said no-shows dropped dramatically to five per cent.
"Since COVID, where I live we do have cancellation fees," said Katie Yan, who spoke with CTV News while dining at Minami, a popular sushi restaurant in Yaletown.
She lives in London, England, where she says cancellation fees for many restaurants range from £20 to £100. It took a while but she says customers got used to it.
"I just don’t cancel anymore because it's so expensive," Yan said.
"Just being cognizant of the pandemic and its effect on businesses, I try not to," said Kevin Zhou, Katie's dining partner.
Limited seating and social distancing due to the pandemic means a cancellation or no-show has even more impact on a restaurant. Another problem is that many people hedge their bets by making several reservations and then decide at the last minute which one to take.
If you make a commitment, restaurants would really like you to live up to it.
OpenTable is also dealing with vaccination requirements by allowing diners to be tagged as verified for entry once proof of vaccination is shown. That makes it easier to book and get in once you arrive.