3/27/2013 04:44:00 PM

Red Medicine, No-Shows and the Twitterverse: Noah Ellis Responds

Once again, LA's Red Medicine is in the news, and not just for chef Jordan Kahn's modernist Asian-inspired cuisine and delicious cocktails. Two years ago it was outing S. Irene Virbila, the LA Times' food critic, which caused a stir and created buzz. But earlier this week, managing partner and recent 30 Under 30 winner Noah Ellis made a bold move by tweeting the names of no-shows - people who made reservations for primetime slots over the weekend and didn't call to cancel - which has garnered mixed reactions from the industry.

First, we can't even imagine not calling to cancel a reservation, or even to say we're running a few minutes late. It's just good policy, it's just filling your part of the deal in the restaurant-diner relationship. We won't get into when we get voice mail if we're trying to call - that's frustrating but a whole other gripe. But should people be publicly "shamed," as Red Med's critics call it?

There are diners who think it was wrong, including one person who told Grub Street they were one of those outed on Twitter. There are chefs and owners who applaud the move, like Santos Uy (Papilles, Mignon), who told the LA Times that, "Small places like us and Red Medicine that are destination spots that don't rely on foot traffic just can't replace that lost 2/4/6 top. That lost table could've paid your labor cost for the day." And there are commenters complaining or praising ad nauseum across the internets.

Ellis told Eater: "On Saturday, we lost a bunch of prime tables, which (besides hurting our business, obviously) really wasn't fair to the guests who took a 6:15 or 9:30 reservation instead of the 7:30 or 8:00 they wanted. I was frustrated, so I blew them up." And in just a few days, the whole situation has gone viral. Here's what Ellis tells us about the situation now.
"We certainly didn't expect the news to travel like this. In the past, we've posted about no-shows, but the responses are limited, and nobody really thinks about it.
Although it may not seem like it, this wasn't about pointing out individual people to draw attention to them and hurt them; it was about putting names to an issue that we had on this particular night to make people aware that it's a very real problem. I wish I could say that Saturday was our worst no-show night ever, but sadly, we've had nights that exceeded 30% -- Saturday was almost entirely prime-time slots, however, which is incredibly frustrating, because we spent that afternoon trying to get people to book earlier and later, which only worked part of the time.
In no way has this been, is it currently, or will it be a policy of ours. In the past, we have called guests who no-showed (they typically don't answer). We have tried accepting credit cards, but many well-meaning guests seemed not to want to put theirs down, even for a reservation they intended to keep (for reasons I don't entirely understand).
We've been confirming all reservations a day in advance (or day of) for well over a year now. We frequently get wrong phone numbers, people who don't call back, people's office numbers that they don't check, etc. Yes, we only hold reservations for 15 minutes past the reservation time, but this isn't really a walk-in type of restaurant, and the bar is small, so we can't handle a ton of people waiting for tables. We don't overbook, because it's really miserable to stand in a restaurant with a full bar and wait for a table for which you made a reservation and showed up.
Moving forward, I'm sure it will be an issue for some time, but we'll continue confirming reservations and not overbooking. I'm sure the no-shows will increase for some time, but that's still no reason to penalize guests who take the time to book and show up."
So what say you?

1 comment :

  1. A lot of the complaints/suggestions people on social media are making are things Red Med is already doing. Calling out disrespectful people who dont hold up their end of the bargain is not wrong IMO.