By Linda Fox
Some of the UK's top restaurateurs say they are being forced to charge diners who fail to turn up when they book a table.
The standard practice of getting a telephone number, and in some cases a credit card number for large parties, no longer appears to be enough.
Many in the industry support Marco Pierre White's move to get customers booking for six people or more at the Criterion to sign a document agreeing to a £15 charge per person to their credit card if they don't turn up.
Peter Conway, chief executive of the Restaurateurs Association of Great Britain, said: "The public have got themselves to blame to a degree. They have provoked it. If the problem has got worse, restaurateurs are right to put procedures in place to deter it."
And restaurant critic Egon Ronay agreed: "People don't understand what having a significant number of no-shows means for the viability of that restaurant," he said.
London's Le Gavroche and the Waterside Inn, Berkshire, charge credit cards £60 and £35 per person respectively if large parties don't show up. Customers are warned of the charge when booking and are asked to confirm their booking a couple of days in advance.