No-shows and cancellations may be a sad fact, but that doesn't mean we can't get some good stories out of them. Industry leaders tell us the strangest reasons they've had for empty tables
Kerth Gumbs, head chef, Fenchurch
"I was told by a receptionist that a guest had to cancel a reservation because they were side-tracked by a squirrel on their way to the restaurant, which caused a delay and ultimately one of the guests going to hospital!"
Nuno César de Sá, general manager, Grantley Hall
"Well, it's still Covid! Everyone tells me they have Covid and now I just think, ‘no!'"
Francisco Macedo, group operations director, Iconic Luxury Hotels and general manager, Cliveden
"I once was called by a guest telling me that the reason that they did not show up was that they were working undercover and therefore could not disclose their name to us. They said they did attend under someone else's name, but could not disclose that either!"
James Chant, owner, Matsudai Ramen
"In the past month we've had a guy call up 10 minutes before his booking to tell us he wasn't coming as he wanted to watch the end of the cricket. Another guy told us that he couldn't leave his house as a bat had managed to get in and was flying around, causing havoc. There's not much more to either of these stories but I found them quite amusing."
Martin Williams, chief executive, Rare Restaurants
"We once marked Madonna down as a no-show at M until we realised she'd actually been there all along, albeit sat at a different table. While it might sound mad to not recognise someone as iconic as Madonna, it was Halloween and she came in such a brilliant costume that the penny didn't immediately drop. It was a great ice-breaker for sure and to this day is one of my favourite nearly no-show stories."
Harneet Baweja, founder, Gunpowder and Empire Empire
"We had one couple who said they couldn't physically find the restaurant. Despite being in a high footfall part of London and we've got pretty big signs."
Itamar Srulovich, co-owner, Honey & Co
"With Honey & Smoke being close to the Portland Hospital, we've had a few solo men order food and then have to leave before it's arrived as their wife's labour has progressed… they usually come back a day or so later! Similarly, when Honey & Co was on Warren Street, we had a lovely pregnant lady pop in in the morning to have tea and a bun for breakfast and she made a booking to have lunch after her appointment, but didn't return. We had a call later that day saying she'd had a baby girl! Needless to say we sent a kadaif cheesecake up the road to her as a congratulations."
Chris Wayne-Wills, managing director, Crerar Hotels
"I had a no-show in a hotel restaurant because the guest in the room got confused and complained that she couldn't come down to the restaurant. She said that when she was in her bedroom there were two doors, where one of the doors went into the bathroom and the other door led to the corridor and had a ‘do not disturb' sign on it. She didn't think she could open the door that said ‘do not disturb'. We called her when she was late for dinner and sent up some room service. She did get herself a little confused."
Sam Harrison, owner, Sam's Riverside
"One guest rang up to tell us they were worried that with all the wind and rain it might be dangerous down by the river and they didn't think they should come! While another excuse was ‘My dog has had a really stressful day and we have to stay and look after her.'"
Duncan Palmer, general manager, the Beaumont
"Not exactly a no-show, but we had one guest who came with a confirmation for the previous year. Luckily, we were able to accommodate them."
Nina Matsunaga, head chef and owner, the Black Bull
"We often have people who underestimate the walk and can't make it. Putting livestock away is a good one for us. Or ‘we had to milk the cows'."
Hubert Beatson-Hird, owner director, the Lunar Pub Co
"We once had an (almost) full no-show for a group booking of 14. They called to cancel as there had been an accident – however, they had forgotten to let the 14th person know. Poor lad still turned up, completely unaware, but decided to still eat – no point wasting the journey or the chance to have a great meal."
Oliver Marlowe, owner and chef-director, the Lunar Pub Co
"We once had a lovely couple call up to cancel as they had come down with the flu and couldn't attend their booking. They informed us the reason they were sick was due to having been caught by the cold weather in flagrante, which we didn't really need to know in hindsight. Sometimes (brutal) honesty is not always the best policy."
Jackson Boxer, chef patron, Brunswick House and Orasay, and chef consultant, Cowley Manor
"We had someone who didn't show up and when we called them to let them know we were going to have to charge their card, they said they'd been unable to make it because their hamster had died. I thought that was so utterly brazen we didn't charge them out of awestruck respect."
Nick Grieves, Ophelia
"‘We're at another restaurant.'"
Nicola Tickle, co-owner, Heft
"Last year we had a late arrival and, due to our rural location, we normally give them a little courtesy call to check they're OK and not lost. But when we called this chap to check he simply answered and said ‘Oh, sorry, the Mrs fancied a Chinese instead' and promptly hung up on me. Needless to say he paid for the Chinese and our cancellation fee."
Abby Lee, chef-patron, Mambow
"A table of seven booked, they arrived, looked at the menu and then booked the restaurant upstairs from their table."
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