Why more and more restaurants are asking for reservation deposits

Waiter serving guests at a restaurant

If you’ve ever been ghosted, you know it’s a huge bummer. When you make a reservation and don’t show up, restaurants feel the same way. Except for restaurant owners, it goes beyond hurt feelings: No-shows cut into a restaurant’s bottom line. As few as six people not showing up to a forty-seat restaurant in a single night can make the difference between profit and loss.

That’s why you might lately see a request for a deposit pop up when you’re trying to book a table, especially if it’s for a large party or during a super busy time. It’s one way restaurants can help protect themselves against no-shows.

A request for a deposit before locking down a reservation might seem like a hassle you don’t want to deal with. But before you click away, know that a deposit isn’t some random extra charge; it’s a request for you to pay a small part of your meal upfront. That money will be either applied to your check or fully refunded when you dine.

Try to see it for what it is:  An opportunity to make life easier for the restaurants you love. Here’s why more and more restaurants are using deposits to protect themselves, and what you can expect.

No-shows hurt restaurants

Unfortunately, diners flaking on their reservations happens more than you think. Yet predicting the exact number of no-shows on any given night isn’t possible. Some days will have none while others will have twice as many as normal. The mystery makes accurate planning difficult for restaurants.

Take staffing; decisions about how many cooks and servers will work are based on the reservations on the books. If you’ve reserved a table for six and don’t show up, that’s a loss for the restaurant. But it’s also a loss for the server who was scheduled. Menu planning and ingredient orders are based on reservations as well, so a high no-show night can result in wasted food and lost money both.

Why a restaurant might ask for a deposit

There are a number of ways that restaurants try to limit no-shows, but asking for a deposit may be one of the most effective. Some people approach restaurant reservations with a bit of wishful thinking, hoping they’ll make it but never firmly making a commitment. It’s pencilled into the calendar, but not written in ink. A deposit can make the reservation as real for the diner as it is for the restaurant.

This, in turn, gives restaurants the confidence to plan more effectively. Restaurants know they’re protected against the loss that comes with no-shows. It’s an insurance policy that can keep a restaurant, especially a small one, in the black. Restaurants are especially likely to ask for a deposit for larger parties, special occasions, private dining areas, or during high-demand times like Saturday night.

How a deposit benefits you

It’s true there are many ways deposits can be helpful to restaurants, but deposits can help you, too. Having the ability to take a deposit may make a restaurant more willing to accept reservations for larger parties or during busy holidays. Without deposits, a restaurant could decide not to take reservations at all, knowing there will be plenty of walk-ins. Reservations make it easier to plan a special meal.

The next time you’re making a reservation and see a request for a deposit, don’t be so fast to walk away. Putting down a deposit for a reservation is another meaningful way to help restaurants thrive.

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