Ask Tom

Sunday, February 13, 2011; W32

During a recent online discussion, a poster reported asking for a seat in what appeared to be an empty dining room, only to be told that all the tables were, in fact, reserved for an hour hence. The scenario prompted this comment from another chatter: "Seems like a restaurant should bank on the customer that is in front of them rather than the ones that aren't." He asked, "What percentage of reservations are no-shows?"

It depends, say the restaurateurs I surveyed. "If we have 20 reservations going into service," says Dave Hammond, general manager of Vermilion in Alexandria, "we can expect one not to show up." Jackie Greenbaum of Jackie's in Silver Spring says no-shows are "very, very rare." Chris Smith, general manager at Poste in Penn Quarter, says the no-show number spikes during holidays and promotions. During Restaurant Week last month, his dining room was stood up on Saturday night by 11 parties representing 37 customers -- despite Poste having reconfirmed most.

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