Down payments to dine. Why restaurants are asking for a deposit and why it’s actually not that weird.

Since Covid crept in, you might have seen your fave restaurants and eateries asking you for a deposit when you dine. Here’s why & why you need to get on board.

If you’ve made a reservation to dine in at a restaurant in the last 6 months, chances are you’ve been asked to enter your credit card details to secure your booking. This is done on the off-chance the restaurant in question is not contacted when you are a no-show. Your card may be charged a fee to cover such circumstances.

Being someone who has worked in restaurants and with venues for a long time, the cost of no-shows and late cancellations is enormous. From a customer’s perspective, you may not see the cost that venues wear in the way of food and labour due to your better offer, because it was too rainy or if something legitimately came up.

Since COVID, there have been a multitude of checks and measures put in place for venues. One of the largest being the overall capacity and number of people that an establishment can host at any given time. This equates to less bums on seats, meaning less money for a restaurant at a time when costs are high and are continually increasing.

Here’s what it means if you don’t show up or cancel your restaurant booking at last minute:

* Staff have already been rostered in preparation to service you. There are laws in place that require a shift with a minimum of 2 hours to be paid, regardless of your no-show. If you really want to support the hospitality industry and the team that work at your favourite restaurant, showing up and having them serve you is a solid start.

* Other people could have booked your table, rather than being turned away and ultimately eaten elsewhere. Restaurants and eateries rely on turning tables, meaning they plan to flip the tables a few times during the night to cover costs and maximise revenue. They could have filled this table with people who wanted to be there + these customers pay for staff wages and turning the lights on. Everything is factored in.

* Food that is perishable, ordered and prepared for in advance of your visit, may be subject to wastage. These are costs the business still need to wear and most (if not all) of their suppliers will not take food back, because you decided not to turn up.

* You are putting additional stress and pressure on an industry that has copped it hard. Venue owners are doing the best they can in extremely challenging circumstances.

Sadly, I’ve seen many people complain online about cancellation surcharges, which are deducted from holding credit cards in the event of a no-show. The total charged to your card may amount to $20 or $50 per head. Remember that your booking is a commitment. That small “no-show” amount you were charged will not even closely cover the amount that would have been spent. If you’re coming, you won’t lose money.

The hospitality industry often falls under the “recreation” umbrella. Other stems of the same umbrella such as travel and live gigs, are not subjected to the same cancellation cost criticism.

Here are 5 things we, as humans, are happy to pay for without yet having received the services or products:

1. Airlines. We have been paying for flights well in advance of our trip dates since forever, and we are hit with a hefty booking / cc fee for it too. Yet it is expected, and therefore not questioned.

2. Concert tickets. We pay for live music events well in advance of our attendance, and pop expensive concert tickets on our credit cards without question.

3. Hotels and accommodation. Holiday stays require full upfront payment in advance, or in the very least will ask for a decent deposit to hold your room.

4. Sporting Events. We spend a fortune in tickets to watch our favourite team or sports star before they play.

5. Tours & Cruises. Adventures cost money, and last minute bookings for tours and cruises are practically non-existent.

We need to ditch the cancel culture mentality. If you’re not keen to go out that’s cool. The pandemic comes with a sense of uncertainty and that’s OK. If you’re not ready to 100% commit to your restaurant bookings, then you can always look to order in, which is a great way to support the venue.

Hospitality operators are doing it tough, and are probably too nice to enforce this new (and much needed process) so if you do see venues ask for your credit card details upfront to confirm your booking, accept it rather than being an un-necessary “Karen”. This small change to protocol could mean the difference between venues being there next time you dine, or becoming another statistic of a venue that didn’t survive COVID. Think about it…

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