Dubai: Dining out, especially in a large group, is no longer what it used to be in Dubai. While agreeing on a venue that suits everyone is a tall order, getting a reservation at the fine dining restaurant of consensus is a bigger ask. If you manage to cross both hurdles, there will always be room for a last minute change of mind. But now you will have to pay a price for that: several fine-dining restaurants charge a steep fee if you cancel a table reservation without adequate notice or don’t show up at all.
Calls made to these restaurants revealed that the cancellation fee ranges from Dh100 to Dh300-plus per person. And there is no escaping payment as the restaurants insist on taking your credit card details when you make the reservation. Or else the booking is not confirmed.
Although no official comment was available, restaurants worldwide introduce cancellation policies when they are very popular and run busy even on weekdays. As one source said, “They tend to lose business with last-minute cancellations or no shows, so a cancellation fee is a security measure.”
A Dubai housewife said she learnt about the trend only last fortnight. “My friend was recently booking a table for nine people for the same evening at a chic South African restaurant on Jumeirah Beach Road. We were shocked to learn about their cancellation policy. My friend was asked to give her credit card number and was told that she would be liable for a cancellation fee of Dh100 per person if there was a no show or if a cancellation was made later in the day. That meant we had to pay Dh900 if, for some reason, we could not make it. The policy is applicable when a table for five or more is reserved.”
A highly popular Italian restaurant off Shaikh Zayed Road levies a cancellation charge of Dh250 per person when a reservation for nine or more is made. The fee is payable if the cancellation is done less than 24 hours from the booking or the guests don’t show up. The guest making the reservation is sent a credit card authorisation form which must be filled up and sent back to get the table confirmed. A call to an elegant Japanese restaurant in the neighbourhood revealed that it charges Dh300 for a no-show in the case of reservations for six or more people. A cancellation before 24 hours of the booking does not incur a charge but if it’s done in less than 24 hours, Dh120 is deducted from the booking guest’s credit card whose details must necessarily be provided.
A high-end Japanese restaurant with a set menu on the Palm takes Dh315 per person if 13 or more guests with a reservation don’t turn up while an Italian restaurant in Jumeirah slaps a fee of Dh200 per person if a cancellation is not made before 24 hours.
The list can go on. But occasional diners can’t quite digest the charges. “Restaurants hold reserved tables for a maximum of 15-20 minutes from the booking time after which they give them to someone else. So it’s not fair to collect a cancellation fee. They end up making money from both the cancelled and new parties,” said a college student. “Even if there is a fee, it should be nominal,” said her friend.
Rgular diners said the trend is resonant with restaurant policies in the West. “Dubai is just catching up with a global practice. Some hard-to-get restaurants with set menus in Europe ask you to pay your entire bill at the time of reservation,” said a visitor from UK.
“The restaurants are only doing what’s in their interest,” said a businessman. “People lack basic courtesies, they don’t send RSVPs to invites, they make multiple bookings for dinner so they can pick and choose till the last minute and they don’t bother to cancel reservations they don’t intend to honour. If they can’t commit, they shouldn’t make an advance booking. Someone who genuinely wants to dine at the place is denied a table because of them.”
What are your views on cancellation fees at restaurants?
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