Quebec restaurants asking province to let them charge people for no-shows
Frustrated by no-shows, restaurants in Quebec are calling on the provincial government to give them the power to charge people for not honouring their dinner reservations.
It's been a long-standing problem for local businesses and to put more pressure on the province, the association representing more than 6,000 restaurants recently wrote to Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin- Barrette to move forward with the request.
"It's a bigger problem right now, restaurant owners are calling us to do something about it," said Dominique Tremblay, a spokesperson for the Association Restauration Québec (ARQ), in an interview Thursday.
"The fee could be $5, $10, $15, $20 — not a big amount. We don't know the details for now. We know we don't want to charge a big amount of money."
Quebec restaurants can take a credit card number, but under Quebec's consumer protection laws they can't charge for a no-show. While they do ask for a deposit for bookings for large groups, such as holiday parties, the ARQ wants the law changed for reservations of all sizes.
A spokesperson for the justice minister said the government understands the "frustration" faced by restaurateurs and that it is currently reviewing the request from the association.
"We invite citizens to be more vigilant and to take the time to cancel their reservations when they do not intend to show up. It is the least they can do and it is a question of respect for our Quebec entrepreneurs," wrote Elisabeth Gosselin in a message to CTV News.
'HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE'
The McKibbin's Irish Pub in Pointe-Claire often hosts big groups.
"Depending on the reservation we have to bring in extra staff … we order extra food. So getting the numbers down properly is huge for us,” said Owner Brent Laderoute.
By calling clients in advance, they try to reconfirm reservations to make sure they're ready for what the clients ask for. Laderoute says getting a credit card number might make folks keep their promise.
"Something just to hold them accountable, just so they do show up and be the number that they say. In this industry, you're basing it huge on reservations and if they make a reservation for 20 and 10 show-up," it's a problem Laderoute said.
Some Edmonton restaurants started charging customers last year for not notifying them about a cancellation after some said no-shows have surged during the pandemic and hit their bottom line.
The Fulton restaurant in Edmonton charges a fee of $10 per person for online reservations in an attempt to deter people from not showing up.
"It's not about recouping a financial loss. It's not about introducing a financial penalty, even. It is just about introducing a way that reminds people that they're committed to the table," Fulton told CTV News Edmonton in an interview in October 2021.
Celebrity Chef Chuck Hughes is torn about the idea of changing customers a fee.
"What people think about restaurants, that we're making money and it's quite the opposite it's really a labour of love and the margins are really thin and to have a table of six not show up on an evening is really hard," he said.
"That being said, am I ready to charge people because they didn't show up? I don't know. On bigger groups, I think it's really important when you're reserving half the restaurant and you don't show up. There needs to be action."
The ARQ said it would prefer not to have to go down this route in Quebec, but said their clients are dealing with the consequences of what it described as a "bad habit." Restaurants have to plan ahead and call in the appropriate staff to accommodate the expected number of customers.
"Restaurant owners, they cannot deal with it anymore. It's financially really difficult. They have the planning, calling staff. If you call staff you have other [labour] laws to respect," Tremblay said. "So if the waiter comes you have to pay them a certain amount of hours, even if you cancel them and everything. So it adds a lot of consequences that maybe people don't see … but they are really there."
With files from CTV Montreal's Caroline Van Vlaardingen