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Restaurants crack down on no-shows

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A couple dines indoors at the Hard Rock Cafe on May 3, 2021 in New York City.

At lots of restaurants, you'll need to take out your credit card long before the bill arrives to put down a deposit on your reservation. Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

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Hard hit by the pandemic and now facing labor shortages, restaurants are cracking down on diners who don’t show. Reservation platform OpenTable says it will start tossing four-time offenders off its site, and at lots of places, you’ll need to take out your credit card long before the bill arrives to put down a deposit.

If, for instance, you made the reservation at Utopian Tailgate, a rooftop bar in Chicago, you better make sure your friends don’t flake.

“We typically charge $10 to $15 per person to hold a reservation,” said Scott Weiner, who co-owns the restaurant and 13 others. He started requiring deposits when in-person dining resumed at limited capacity.

That put an end to this behavior: “People would make a reservation at five or six restaurants, and you’ll see those cancellations happen sometimes an hour before their meal,” Weiner said.

Now, cancel a day ahead or take the hit.

Gene Alexeyev, who manages Mintwood Place, a neighborhood restaurant in Washington, D.C, said that because of labor shortages they can’t serve as many people. With so much demand, tables are booked way in advance.

“The old luxury of just being able to walk up and be recognized and be given a table that’s available doesn’t always work,” Alexeyev said.

When there’s a deposit on the line, people tend to show up.

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