Would you pay $60+ to reserve a seat at a Vancouver restaurant?

How much money would you put down to secure a table at a restaurant in Vancouver?

In recent years, more establishments are charging reservation deposits or fees to help prevent “no-shows” — and the amount of money customers are putting down for their seats has increased.

While that often comes in the form of a hold on your credit card, some restaurants charge a deposit, others can require prepayment of meals, and there is a handful that even requires a donation to a charity to get a table.

“What I’m noticing is some restaurants are actually taking $60 or more for the deposit and it’s actually coming off the credit card,” said Julia, a big fan of Vancouver’s food scene, who recently dined at a Michelin-starred restaurant on Main Street.

“They’re booking up to three months in advance, so if you book a reservation ahead of time, you’ve lost that $60, and the restaurant has gained it for the three months.

“From a consumer’s perspective, going out to a restaurant is expensive enough, but to have the money taken off your credit card that early in the process is quite frustrating.”

She says she’s also noticed a few restaurants are asking diners to prebook their meals.

“I saw one restaurant that is asking for $144 to prepay for your reservation and your meal. It’s getting quite shocking.”

Holds or deposits required by these restaurants are meant to be released when customers honour their reservations, but Julia wonders what they do with the money in the meantime.

“If I do a rough calculation and say they have 30 tables, they take $60 a table, every two hours there is a turnover over six hours over three months… that’s money they’ve got in their bank account and not in the consumers’ bank accounts, likely collecting high interest. If they’re not collecting high interest, then they need a new accountant,” she laughed.

“The last time I ate out, it was a great meal, great restaurant, I loved it, but are they actually gouging the consumer, are they taking this money and making interest off it and using that to boost their profits? I don’t know, but it’s getting frustrating and it’s getting unaffordable.”

CityNews reached out to the restaurant Julia recently dined at, along with some others who take reservation deposits, but they declined interviews.

Ian Tostensen with the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association says there are a number of restaurants in Vancouver taking reservation deposits and fees — mainly popular, high-end establishments —  but it is not a widespread practice.

“It prevents people from making reservations and not showing up, but most businesses see it as a bit of an obstacle to ask people to put money down before they even get there. Being in hospitality, it’s a bit of a block,” he said.

Tostensen believes online reservation systems used by many restaurants already help cut down on “no-shows,” by sending reminders and confirmation requests to diners of their upcoming tables.

“I think that keeps the system pretty honest and it reminds people that they better let a restaurant know whether they can or can’t make it. I think that is the balance in our system rather than taking money.”

But Tostensen reminds that it is good form to let a restaurant know if you will not be showing up for a reservation.

“It does cost them money. They’re holding that real estate open for you — in most cases, they can fill it but sometimes they can’t — and it costs them. It costs the restaurant, it costs the servers so, out of respect, you should notify the restaurant of your intentions. That’s the fair way.”

When it comes fairness, Julia believes Vancouver restaurants taking money for reservations could do better.

“It’s just one of those weird things where your money is not your money anymore. For the ease of making a reservation, to be able to go to a restaurant, to not have to wait in line, you’re losing money. There’s something wrong with that.”

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