Cancel Your Dinner Reservation, You No-Show Jerk

reserved table
Shutterstock / Jennifer Bui/Thrillist

The reservation system is a beauteous modern luxury. It allows people like me, with no self-control, to approximate when they will eat their next meal. It’s a foolproof system. I love it. It’s (nearly) flawless.

There’s only one problem: you. The no-show. The last-minute canceller. The double-booker, the indecisive field-playing restaurant-hopper. The jerk.

That’s right. If you know you’re not going to use a reservation and, instead of voiding it, you ignore it ‘til it passes, then you’re little more than a boorish, finger-sniffing turd burglar.

Let’s start with the obvious: restaurants are businesses. Some of them even pay their employees above minimum wage. Others (most) don't. But, either way, restaurants tend to operate on thin margins. When you cancel a reservation, you’re cutting into those margins. Even at popular restaurants -- and especially at small and/or fancy restaurants -- the cut can be deep. Eater reported that Alinea, Chicago’s shining, molecularly gastronomous star, could face a “100-percent loss of profit” if even just a couple tables ghosted.

You are everyone's problem.

Your casual barbarism gets worse the bigger your group is. “I was at a restaurant a few weeks ago, that had a party of thirty cancel their reservation with an hour's notice,” recounted Carey Jones at Serious Eats. “They had extra staff on hand to deal with a party of that size, and for nothing.” Not only are you stiffing the restaurant on a check that should represent a significant portion of the evening’s revenue, but you’re stiffing the servers, who forfeited their time to be on hand for tips that never turned up.

Now, because you’re a buttmunching numbskull, this point may not faze you. What do I care? That’s THEIR problem, not mine. Right you are, insensitive buttmunch! But it’s also the problem of every other not-dick who just wants to reserve a goddamned table to eat a meal of food.

If even a few tables don't show, they face a 100% loss of profit.

When you brazenly reserve simultaneous tables at three restaurants and go AWOL on 66% of ‘em, you’re screwing the whole system. You’re like the self-involved tool who refuses to merge until the last minute and causes even worse traffic, or the windbag who thinks it’s totally fine to continue a personal phone conversation on a packed elevator. You are a problem, and someday, you may be my problem. And that, I simply cannot abide.

See, when a restaurant starts losing money to infelicitous no-shows, its manager -- if he/she is any good -- is going to make some changes. Those changes screw me over. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Requiring a credit card on which to assess no-show fees to human trashcans
  • Double-booking their tables like they’re seats on a goddamned airplane to hedge against your tiresome bullshit
  • Issuing prix fixe tickets that are expensive enough to offset the lost opportunity of wine & beverage if your merry band of suck never materializes
  • Offering fewer reservations to limit their exposure to ass-hats like you
  • Abandoning the reservation system entirely


Any of these remedies, logical though they are from a business standpoint, are an inconvenience for the dining public (and for me, personally). Those more severe adjustments are a blockade between us -- the adults who honor their commitments -- and a damn dinner.

Look, I’m all for spontaneity. If you want to Zooey Deschanel your way through life, jumping in puddles and taking tandem bicycle rides with handsome strangers out of pure whimsy, go right ahead. No strings attached! Live your best life, or whatever! But when it comes to restaurant reservations, you need to chill with all that carefree pretense.

The no-show. The last-minute canceller. The double-booker.

It’s not cute to go rogue on the promises you make to restaurants. No one thinks you’re savvy for finagling the best table possible at the expense of the restaurant community at large. You’re a bottom-feeding, carpet-bagging parasite thriving on the service industry’s good faith. Everyone hates you, from the back of the house to the front, from casual diner to diehard.

Cancel your reservations if you’re not going to use them. It’s easy. It’s the right thing to do. Only a jerk wouldn’t.

Dave Infante is a senior writer at Thrillist. He's left reservations uncanceled before, and hates himself for it. Follow @dinfontay on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.