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The high cost of Kiwi fine dining – $195 per person fees for reservation no-shows

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If you intend to indulge in a dollop of fine dining you better be willing to commit to a date – because some of New Zealand’s top restaurants are now charging up to $195 per person for reservation no-shows.

Among Auckland’s leading restaurants, nearly all have introduced some form of insurance on their bookings – whether it be a deposit laid down online, or a request for customers’ credit card details.

The terms of each high-end restaurant differ, but broadly a fee anywhere from $20 to $195 per person will be charged to diners if they fail to show up to their reservations without notice.

Clooney restaurant in Auckland ‘s CBD charges $120 per person for a booking canceled within six hours prior to the intended dining time.

Owner Tony Stewart said Clooney had enforced the cancellation fee six times in 2018.

“It’s for all bookings. I just think it’s rude that people would not show up without notifying,” he said.

“I totally understand if something comes up, someone’s unwell, there’s reasons. But there’s just not a situation I believe you shouldn’t make a phone call, it’s disrespectful.

“Our head spend is about $250, and this is a tough industry. When you’ve got a booking you cherish it, and to have a table empty when we had the potential of booking it is really tough.”


Pasture restaurant in Parnell decided to start taking a deposit of $50 per person upon booking after what owner-operator Laura Verna said was an “extremely high rate of no shows and cancellations”.

As an independent restaurant with only six seats, serving 12 guests a night with an average spend of $250 to $300, the cost of cancellations was “devastating” on Pasture’s profit margin.

“At our worst I remember working it out one week that 22 per cent of our bookings had been no shows or cancellations,” Verna said.


“Now we take a deposit with the booking and we haven’t had a single no show since April. We’ve had cancellations and that happens, it’s part of operating a restaurant.”


“I think these kind of systems are not there to punish people, they’re there to acknowledge that for restaurants that serve a set menu we do outlay a lot, in terms of purchasing special ingredients and preparing them.”

“My husband and I we were recently in New York and Copenhagen and we had to prepay for a lot of our meals and I’m totally cool with doing that. We would love to move to being pre-paid but we’re just not sure New Zealand is ready for that.”

Verna said she never kept deposits if she could rebook the cancelled seats.

The increasing trend of patrons booking numerous restaurants for the same night and then deciding on one at the last minute is also a nuisance many operators have to contend with.

Manager of Auckland city restaurant the Grove, Chris Martin, said such double booking was “not infrequent”.

“I’ve had that happen. I’ve had people book online at different time periods, so I’ll have someone booked at 6, 7.30, 8 and 8.45 and it’s the same person,” Martin said.

“You come in and say we’re really busy tonight and actually take a look at it and maybe you’re not as busy as you thought.”

However, Martin was representative of most owners and managers in saying the Grove rarely enforced their $99 per person fee for cancellations in the last 24 hours.

“Very seldom do we do it, it’s literally a deterrent. We put it there to say if anything happens, just call us. We don’t want to alienate our guests so a lot of the time we just rebook them. No-shows are a massive one in Auckland.”

Restaurant Association of New Zealand chief executive Marisa Bidois observed reservation insurance policies were increasingly common, and advised good practice to set it at 30 to 50 per cent of the average patron spend.

“That, at the end of the day wouldn’t cover all of their costs. If they’ve hired an extra staff member that evening they still would be paying that person,” Bidois said.

“Absolutely it’s been discussed for a number [of] years but I think more people are realising it does have a huge effect on the bottom line having no shows, and they need to create a system to protect their business.

“Profit margins in hospitality are very tight. If you book a show for example and then don’t go, you can’t get a refund on tickets, you have to onsell them. It’s pretty standard in today’s market.”


• Clooney (Auckland CBD) – $120 per person for cancellations in last six hours
• The Grove (Auckland CBD) – $99 per person for cancellations in last 24 hours
• Kazuya (Auckland CBD) – $80 per person for cancellations in last 24 hours
• Sidart (Ponsonby) – $100 per person for overseas bookings of four plus, cancelled in last 24 hours
• Pasture (Parnell) – $50 per person for cancellations
• Mudbrick (Waiheke) – $50 per person for cancellations in last 24 hours
• Roots (Lyttelton) – $105-$195 per person for cancellations in last 48 hours

By Tom Dillane, NZ Herald

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