Why slammed Toronto restaurants desperately need no-show diners to embrace reservation ‘cancel culture’

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The time has come for Toronto to embrace cancel culture. Not the kind of cancel culture that has humanities professors shaking in their loafers (and that may or may not even exist, depending on who you follow on Twitter).

But the kind of cancel culture that should exist yet too often doesn’t: a.k.a. the kind of cancel culture that demands a person call in advance to cancel a reservation at a restaurant if they can’t make it.

We’re a little over a week into stage 1 of the province’s reopening and two things are clear:

1) The vaccines are working overtime; on Monday, Ontario recorded 270 cases of the virus — marking the seventh straight day of case counts below 400.

2) Small business owners are working overtime too — to accommodate people who don’t always respect their livelihoods.

Last-minute cancellations and no shows were a problem in the hospitality world before the pandemic, but they’re acutely devastating right now when many bars and restaurants are barely hanging in there.

Yet in our nation’s big cities and beyond, people continue to stand up dining establishments or cancel patio reservations last minute — thinning out crowds that are already thin to begin with on account of limited capacity rules.

You may have a read a story recently about a downtown Toronto bistro called Bindia that suffered dozens of last minute cancellations on reopening weekend — likely the result of people double or triple booking patios to ensure their party would be seated somewhere in the city.

Or maybe you heard about Monkland Tavern, a restaurant in Montreal that was so frustrated by a recent rash of reopening no shows, it did as many businesses do and took to social media to air a grievance — with a smile of course.

“Thank you to all that came out to show us all the love, this week,” the voice behind the restaurant tweeted. “We appreciate it so much. To the 16 no shows for their reservations, I beg of you, all it takes is a phone call. We turned away so many that would have loved to have your table. Thank you!”

In the U.K. meanwhile, one pub owner said 100 people failed to honour their reservations in a single weekend in early June. The owner of a fine dining restaurant in Edinburgh said he lost 3,000 pounds in a single night when diners stood him up recently.

And in the States, in May, New York City restaurateur Keith McNally publicly banned Graydon Carter from his line of restaurants after the former Vanity Fair editor failed to honour a 12-person reservation — a reservation McNally’s staff had planned for to a tee (Carter has since apologized). Wherever you look, if a city or town has re-entered some form of normal life, its dining establishments are falling prey to the no-show way-too-late cancellation trend.

In fact, this trend prompted arguably one of its biggest enablers — the online reservation tool Open Table — to launch a campaign this month called “Show up for Restaurants” that penalizes users who ghost on dining establishments with a “four strikes and you’re out” policy.