Seminal London restaurant St. John will reopen with a no-show fee of £20 per diner, as co-owners Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver acknowledge that even a restaurant with its reputation is not immune to customers not turning up. The Clerkenwell restaurant, and its sibling in Spitalfields, St. John Bread and Wine, will reopen on 29 July, according to Bloomberg’s Richard Vines.
Gulliver said that “It’ll be great to fire up the stoves and to put good things on the plate once more. The ‘no-shows’ experience of many already is not acceptable. One pandemic is enough! Hence the charge.”
His comments come in the context of a number of London restaurants posting messages on social media in recent days, with various degrees of both anger and actual fixing of the problem. North London restaurant group that consists of Jolene in Newington Green, Primeur in Highbury, and Westerns Laundry in Holloway announced that it was raising its no-show charge to £50; TV chef Tom Kerridge, meanwhile, posted a picture of a soldier from 300 and labelled customers “disgraceful, shortsighted and down right unhelpful,” as well as “selfish.”
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To the 27 people that booked @kerridgesbandg and then failed to turn up on a Saturday night..... This industry, like many others is on the verge of collapse. Your behaviour is disgraceful, shortsighted and down right unhelpful..... all of you “no shows” in all restaurants up and down the country are adding to the issues already being faced.... YOU are putting peoples jobs more at risk..... we put staff levels to the number of covers booked and when you fail to turn up, it now costs us, which in turn will force very uncomfortable and hard decisions about staffing levels. You are the worst kind of guest, and that is “selfish”. I hope you have good look at yourselves...
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At a time when our industry is struggling enough we are also afflicted by a plague of unusually large numbers of “No-Shows”. A no show is characterised by guests booking a table, then confirming their visit and finally not turning up on the night without letting the restaurant know. In normal times that table would be difficult enough to fill at such short notice and we would rely on last minute walk ins to do this, which we don t allow at the moment for logistical & safety reasons. Under the current conditions, it s virtually impossible to make up for the loss of revenue. A no show of 4 typically costs the restaurant around £240. We had 12 no shows last night in just one restaurant. Not only does this equate to 1/4 of our revenue gone for the evening it also denies other potential guests a chance to dine with us instead of the no-show. We have therefore decided to increase our “no-show” charge policy from £10 per head to £50 a head which will cover the totality of the loss of revenue. Plans change, we completely get that. But when they do, give your restaurant a call and let them know. It only takes a minute. It s much appreciated and can be the difference between staying open, save jobs or close down permanently, and impoverishing lives and neighbourhoods.
No-show discourse is not new, even if it has been exacerbated by anxiety over a future in which dining is restricted by COVID-19. But even in this new context, the arguments aren’t really changing: take a fee — but most won’t — because customers are selfish — that simply isn’t the only thing at play. This lays out one of the kinks of the no-show issue: while the “restaurant industry” unilaterally recognises it as a socially unacceptable ill, it remains divided on what to actually do about it.
Booking for St. John opens from Friday 17 July.