No shows

One of the most irritating problems a restaurant has to put up with are No-Shows - customers who make reservations and then do not appear or bother to cancel. The injured party usually suffers in silence, possibly on the basis that the offenders may turn up one day and pay for a meal. Nevertheless Madrid's Lúboto restaurant was the worm that turned when it published in Instagram last week: "Today, regrettably, we have suffered 11 no-shows. Below is a copy of the email sent to the 'customers' (if they can be referred to such), but due to the laws of data protection, we are regrettably not allowed to publish their names...."

In Spain, the question of reservations is treated more casually than in many other first world countries. It is even common practice for a group to make a reservation in two restaurants and only decide which one to go to just before setting out. It is too late by then to cancel the other reservation, so why bother? The previous week, what has been called 'the world's best restaurant', Noma, en Copenhagen, also went on the offensive. It published on social media a picture of its kitchen and waiting staff holding up their middle fingers, with the title "This what we think of the two groups of people who made reservations for last night's dinner but never showed up!"

That rather blunt instrument - requesting credit card details when booking - is commonly used, particularly in the UK and USA, but has the effect of guaranteeing that a penalised customer will probably never set foot in that restaurant ever. Rather more effectively, but on a knife-edge between legality and illegality as far as the data protection laws are concerned, is the clandestine circulation of a black list among restaurants in the same town or city. Another well-proven policy is to offer customers a discount on a future meal reservation, obviously dependent upon the first booking being honoured. The sure-fire way of avoiding these problems is to refuse to accept reservations, and while no-one enjoys watching other diners appear to linger over their coffees, there are worse things to do than have another drink.