Aspen restaurants report “epidemic” of no-shows and late cancels this season
January 8, 2017
Making a dinner reservation typically is a simple task: Call a restaurant and secure a time and date to dine.
But recently in Aspen, it's become more complicated.
Frustrated that diners are balking on their reservations, some Aspen restauranteurs now demand that patrons provide their credit card information up front, allow a penalty fee of $100 per person reserved for any cancellation made less than 48 hours in advance and sign a contract agreeing to such terms.
Prospective diners also may expect to receive two or three phone calls and/or email reminders from the restaurant confirming their reservation.
It might seem like a hassle, but Aspen restaurant operators maintain these measures are necessary for their business as they experience an "epidemic" of last-minute cancellations and no-shows.
"We're calling it an epidemic," said Melissa Rhines, referring to the staff at Ellina restaurant, which she manages, as well as the other local restaurants that report a recent surge in late cancellations and no-shows.
"We've had more no-shows (this season) than ever. And it's detrimental to our business."
Ellina owner Ryan O'Donnell said while people double- and triple-booking reservations at multiple restaurants is not a new occurrence, "it is in excess" more so than ever before.
La Creperie du Village manager Jaimie Atkinson said, "It's definitely like a known thing that everyone books multiple reservations, so then they'll decide day-of, are they going to Cache Cache, are they going here?"
Atkinson said this has been more of a recent problem for the Creperie, forcing the restaurant to implement strict reservation policies similar to Ellina's and others'.
"You can't make a reservation without a credit card or an email. … Whether it's parties of two or 24, we charge $100 dollars per person" for cancels, Atkinson said, noting that "it kind of has a shock factor."
"Personally, I try and reason with them on the phone and get through to them more on a emotional level," she said. "I say we are a small restaurant, we hold those seats so if you are going to cancel, please let us know."
At Steakhouse No. 316, manager Sophie Judson said she often receives comments from people like, "Wow, this place must be really exclusive" after she explains the restaurant's cancellation policy.
"It's extra work on our part when we're taking the reservation," Judson pointed out. "And it might be a nuisance for the customer, but it's necessary and effective."
The Steakhouse, like Ellina, began issuing contracts toward the end of November for reservations of six people or more, Judson said, due to a swell of no-shows and cancellations.
"This year is, for sure, way worse," she said. "I don't remember this happening last year. And it's been an even bigger problem at The Monarch."
Aspen-based CP Restaurant Group manages The Monarch, Steakhouse No. 316 and The Wild Fig.
The three restaurants share a central reservations service whereby people often call and attempt to make reservations at more than one of these restaurants for the same night at the same time, Judson said.
"In this day and age with technology, a no-show is unacceptable," Rhines said. "We are baffled and stressed about it."