Quebec restaurants are reeling over last-minute New Year’s Eve cancellations and no-shows.
The practice costs tens of thousands of dollars a year and industry leaders say it’s only getting worse, sparking renewed calls for the province to allow restaurants to charge penalties for clients who decline to appear.
On New Year’s Eve, restaurateur Constant Mentzas says he got more than 30 last-minute cancellations for his restaurant Garde-côte in Old Montreal. That is half of his restaurant’s capacity.
“I won’t lie, I’m a bit bitter,” Mentzas said.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow as he says he lost about $12,000 dollars that night. It’s the equivalent of a full payroll. He also lost a lot of the food he bought.
“It’s one of those days that you’re sure to make money: it’s Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve and Mother’s Day. When you loose one of those, it definitely hurts,” Mentzas says.
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Mentzas says he sees last-minute cancellations happening more and more. Quebec’s Restaurant Association (ARQ) agrees. The association says the practice used to be a Montreal issue but it’s now happening across Quebec.
The ARQ says no-shows and last-minute cancellations cost restaurants an average of $47,000 every year and with thin profit margins of between 2 and 4 per cent, it can wreak financial havoc.
“It’s not sustainable,” said Martin Vézina, the ARQ’s Vice-president of public and governmental affairs.
Quebec is the only province where restaurant owners can’t charge customers who don’t honour their reservations. Quebec’s restaurant association has asked the government to change the law and the consumer protection office is analyzing their request. But Vézina says they’ve been waiting months for an answer.
“We know that they aren’t closed to our demand but they want to see if there’s a consequence to other industries,” Vézina said.
He is eager for a resolution. The consumer protection office told Global News they can’t comment on the file but said the analysis of the matter continues and changes to the legislation might be necessary, which requires time.
“There are some owners who do it, who charge a penalty. It’s illegal but they do it and you know what, it works. Their no-shows have decreased considerably,” Vézina said.
Quebec’s Justice Ministry is responsible for the file.
In an email, a spokesperson told Global News they understand the frustration and they are working on potential solutions. In the meantime, they invite people to cancel their reservations if they won’t show up.
“In a way a reservation is sort of an agreement. I agree to hold the table, you agree you’re coming and if you constantly break the agreement, it’s difficult for us to keep our side of the bargain too,” Mentzas added.
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