Disney EchoEar Grand Mouseter
Joined: April 1992
||Posted: Mar. 31, 2012, 10:45 am
The newspaper (online version of it) story quoted below is about New Orleans fine dining, not Disney theme park sit-down table service dining.
However, it does highlight trends in heavy tourist or tourist-convention destinations, that being prospective diners are making multiple dining reservations at multiple restaurants or arrive very late or are no shows once the date and time come around.
October 2011 Disney started implementing the policy you see quoted above.
Below is one non-Disney/non-Orlando FL or Anaheim CA fine dining establishment and the extremes they feel forced to go through to ensure that their tables each night are full of committed diners.
Notice in the article: Gautreau's DOES attempt to call diners to remind them of reservations in addition to their new Jazz Fest seasonal contract policy. I don't know if Disney does that, or if it's "old school"-style honor system.
I'm posting this to let you know that what Disney implemented October 2011 is legit and in keeping with trends now going on nationally in the dining industry.
Jazz Fest dinner reservations can involve duty as well as pleasure
Published: Friday, March 30, 2012, 10:40 PM
By Doug MacCash, The Times-Picayune
Reserving a table during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Presented by Shell at a certain high-priced Uptown restaurant has recently become a bit more business-like — even authoritarian. Gautreau’s Jazz Fest reservation agreement form has all the welcoming warmth of a parking ticket. The form is e-mailed to reservation requesters, who must agree to six stipulations and provide a signature before being granted a coveted seat at the nationally renowned establishment on Soniat Street. Potential diners must offer up a credit-card number in advance and agree to steep fines should they violate any aspect of the culinary contract.
All restaurateurs agree that less-than conscientious diners who request reservations, then fail to appear, can be deadly to an establishment’s bottom line. Many of the Crescent City’s high-profile eateries still rely exclusively on the old-school honor system. Some accept reservations through online services. Several confirm reservations by phone, to avoid last-minute absenteeism. A few require a credit-card number and level fines from $25 to $50 for no-shows, especially during times of high demand.
But Gautreau’s Jazz Fest contract places it in the reservation-verification vanguard.
Point one of the document demands that “the contract must be returned in 72 hours or your reservation will be cancelled.”
Point two warns that the restaurant requires “a minimum of 48 hours cancellation notice of your reservation or you will be charged $50 per person.”
The third regulation — call it the “Go Back Three Spaces” rule — requires that hopeful diners, who have held up their part of the bargain so far, must re-reserve their table by 3 p.m. on the day they are contracted to dine. If not, the folks at Gautreau’s “reserve the right to cancel your reservation and charge $50 per person.”
The rigidity continues in rule No. 4, which reads: “If you arrive with an incomplete party, we reserve the right to charge $50 per person for each confirmed guest that does not show up.”
Regulation No. 5 mitigates against New Orleans’ notorious tardiness. “If,” the contract reads, “you are more than 30 minutes late, your reservation is void and subject to the charge of $50 per person.”
Stipulation No. 6 almost seems redundant: If you do not show up — you guessed it — “you will be charged $50 per person.”
Gautreau’s proprietor Patrick Singley says the stringent policy was prompted in part by people who book simultaneous appointments at multiple restaurants, then make a last-minute decision, leaving the unchosen restaurants alone at the altar like jilted brides.
When errant diners fail to appear for early reservations, Singley explained, the reservation desk staff can attempt to contact diners on a waiting list to try to refill those empty seats. But there’s no replacing late-reservation no-shows.
Which brings us back to Jazz Fest. Most restaurateurs agree the springtime music extravaganza is a bountiful time. Wealthy music lovers visiting New Orleans for the Fest, often plan to cap their busy days with visits to the city’s most sophisticated eateries. Trouble is, the Jazz Fest crowd is notoriously unreliable. Ti Adelaide Martin, co-proprietor of Commander’s Palace, the flagship of the Uptown restaurant fleet, said that Jazz Fest fans are “always late, sunburned and hung-over, but happy.”
Singley said that tardiness is especially treacherous during the Fest, when late reservations leave little chance to refill empty seats. “At 9:30 at night on Jazz Fest, there’s no way we can recoup,” Singley said.
Singley says Gautreau’s non-Jazz Fest reservation policy is similar, but the negotiations are performed by telephone, without the use of the sign-and-return form. “It’s the same thing,” Singley said, “but we only do it verbally.”
Of the Jazz Fest policy, Singley says: “We started it this year, because we got burned last year.”
He said he doesn’t remember the exact number of Jazz Fest no-shows or last-minute cancellations, but he estimates there was a night or two when the restaurant turned away a stream of table-seekers, then lost roughly $2,000 on unfilled seats. The reasons are many, Singley said. People get sunburned or exhausted, or don’t realize the restaurant isn’t near their hotels. Singley says he and his staff feel the crab-claw pinch of Jazz Fest cancellations especially sharply, since the festival is the “last hurrah” of the high dining season before the summer slump.
Getting a signed contract is the only way to recover the income lost through no-shows, Singley says. The average Gautreau’s diner drops $75 on supper, Singley said, and on a good Saturday night, the restaurant seats about 105, not counting private parties. Though he’d rather serve food to customers than impose penalties, he now feels better protected against loss.
Sibley noted that his staff does its best to contact reservation-makers before penalties come into play.
“We call them; we don’t just cancel,” he said. “We’re not just horrible.”
Tanya Boswell, co-owner of the tony Stella! restaurant in the French Quarter, agrees with the need for rigorous reservation management. Stella! too charges a $50 per person no-show fee. Boswell said that Stella! used to have a signed receipt procedure similar to Gautreau’s Jazz Fest policy, but things “got a little too crazy with all the forms.” So the restaurant has retreated to a telephone reservation guarantee system.
Stella!’s celebrated chef-owner Scott Boswell said that before the 77-seat restaurant got serious about reservations, “hundreds of thousands of dollars” were lost to no-shows. The new system “simply works because it closes the option of not being responsible.”
Boswell says the Stella! reservation desk treats recognized repeat customers differently from unknowns, forgoing the need for a credit card guarantee. When the pledge is deemed necessary, the Stella staff softens the impact by using the moment to inquire about possible customer needs ranging from birthday celebrations to dietary restrictions such as vegetarianism to food allergy avoidances. Boswell said he wants customers to know that Stella! is not just promising no-show penalties.
“We want to show them that we’re paying attention, too,” he said.
Singley admits that to further avoid empty seats, Gautreau’s routinely overbooks its dining room, but only slightly. Causing a customer to wait, he said, has occasionally cost him “a couple of glasses of wine.” Once, he said, he bought a waiting customer dinner at a nearby competitor.
Enforceable reservation contracts may be new to New Orleans, Singley said, but they are commonplace among in-demand restaurants in New York and other cuisine capitals. Some contracts, he said, are even more complex than his.
“I think it may offend a few,” he said, “but there are plenty to take their place.”
End of quoted news story.
One of the Comments:
cate arliss March 31, 2012 at 8:44AM
I travel frequently and book large tables at renowned restaurants. This type of contract, written or verbal, is industry standard in finer restaurants, especially those with limited seating. I was unable to get a table for 12 in New York unless I booked a separate room and signed a much more detailed contract than this one. Truth is many, many people do not have the courtesy to cancel reservations in a timely fashion. I am always happy to give my credit card-it guarantees me a table. Reconfirming by 3pm day of is also standard. Gautreaus is my favorite restaurant in New Orleans-hands down.
End of quoted Comment accompanying this news story.
So folks, take this trend into account when planning and booking then showing up for dining at any Disney park, shopping district or hotel restaurants.
In early March 2012 Disney announced, and park guests are experiencing, that when you get a Fast Pass for certain park attractions that the start and end times of time of return are now being strictly enforced. Particularly the end time. If you get a Fast Pass for a return time of between X and Y o'clock, and you come to the attract several minutes or even into hours past Y o'clock, nowadays Disney will not let you board. Used to be Disney might be strict about not boarding before X o'clock, but was very generous and accommodating if you arrive after, or a lot after, Y o'clock. No more. It doesn't matter that on prior park visits of yours, going back years, it was more laxly enforced. In 2012 "that was then, this is now".
What does this have to do with the imposition of fees on your credit card if you show up to dine at certain Disney places late or don't show at all?
Two words: They both have "stricter enforcement" in common.
And two other words: NextGen Technology.
NextGen is Disney's technological way and innovation to help guests book and customize their park experiences in advance, including pre-booking ride times and skipping even the FAst Pass machines and the ability to set dining plans, online, from home. The ability to do some of that will cost park goers extra for what used to be "no extra charge" perks generous, hospitable Disney used to offer. Disney now imposing more terms and conditions and restrictions, and stricter enforcement and less accommodation if the root cause is "guest error" (showing up later than the stated or agreed upon time or not at all in the case of dining). There is an implied contract going on with both Fast Pass return times and dining reservations, and Disney is enforcing it's end of the implied contract. Gautreau's at Jazz Fest time in New Orleans has a literal, written, contract going on. What Gautreau's shares with Disney as a national dining trend: Stricter enforcement of implied or written contract so the restaurant can stay in business and profitable. In the case of Fast Passes and return times, it's an implied written contract, especially if you arrive the end time of the Fast Pass return time window.
Friendly Mousey Disney is starting to get more firm in their dealings with guests, starting back in October 2011 about dining reservations, carrying over into 2012 about Fast Pass return times.