Taking a Credit Card for a Dinner Reservation

Next week, Julie and I are heading up to Tofino for a pseudo-holiday. I say ‘pseudo’, because it’s going to be a week of dedicated book writing. We’re staying at the Long Beach Lodge, which looks charming and luxurious without the blood-chilling prices of the Wickaninnish Inn (where rates start at CAN $480 a night).

We are, however, going to eat dinner at the very posh Pointe Restaurant at the Wick. I called today to make a reservation for next week, and it was a bit of a struggle to get a table. We eventually got sorted out, but not before they took a credit card. For a dinner reservation.

We can cancel at any time, but if we don’t show up, they charge $35 a person to the card. Does anybody else think that’s incredibly tacky? Particularly for a fancy restaurant like the Pointe? Given the difficulty in getting a table, they have no shortage of customers, so they can set whatever policies they like. That said, I’m not sure I’ll give them my business again.


  1. I have not heard of a restaurant doing this before.
    But, I am not sure how I would feel about it.
    I think that a smaller fee per person would be more appropriate, just to cover the tips that the staff might loose. Then again if the place is full pretty much all the time then why do they need such an incentive for people to come.

  2. I find it hard to understand why such an isolated restaurant would need this deposit — where else are you going to have a big night-out while in Tofino? Mark might be right about tips — restaurants call in extra staff depending on the number of reservations.

    Have fun!~ Enjoy the West Coast!

  3. Isn’t this fairly standard for higher end restaurants? I have reservations at The Beach House in Vancouver for Saturday. They charged $100 ahead of time for a reservation on their patio.

    When going out on a date, I usually call my credit card in ahead of time. It avoids the awkwardness of deciding how to split the bill at the end of the date. I usually just stand up and walk out with my date.

    I always get the best service that way too. This can be an issue because I’m 28 years old and most high end restaurants are full of 50 year olds.

  4. Parveen: You may be entirely correct. I’m very ambivalent about food, so it’s rare that I make a reservation at a high-end restaurant (Julie will usually go with friends who, you know, care about food). Maybe this is a symptom of the gourmand revolution that seems to have taken place in our culture over the past decade?

    And that’s very smooth about calling ahead with your credit card.

  5. If it’s a choice between a place that will take reservations & charge your card, and a place that WON’T, I prefer the place that will. In Princeton there are a couple nice places that will not take reservations. So you just HANG OUT. Hoping you’ll get a table within the next HOUR. I hate it.

  6. We also have had this experience–they would charge our credit card if 1) we did not show up or 2) the number of people in our party was fewer than we had reserved. Guess this is just their way of ensuring that they don’t have empty tables when they have turned away walk-ins or other reservations. I did not think it was tacky, just a sign of the times–restaurant owners can’t afford to have empty tables and perhaps in that particular city, many people make multiple reservations at different restaurants and then just don’t bother to cancel the others.

  7. I have a friend who works in the food industry, and he would probably applaud what the Pointe is doing. There a lot of no shows for restaurants.

  8. As a patron I would consider it quite tacky and not very customer-friendly. The Pointe is not some Michelin-starred restaurant… it’s a good restaurant, but it’s not THAT good.

    Even the Michelin one-star I went to in a tiny little village in Provence didn’t take any kind of credit card for the reservation. We showed up and were the only people in the restaurant for lunch (end of season). We had a chef and a server dedicated completely to us. That might have been an acceptable situation in which to take a credit card reservation, but they didn’t.

    Restaurants are not like hotels, where the room “expires” if nobody takes it. Restaurants don’t HAVE to prepare the food (and in fact they shouldn’t prepare it, hopefully, until you’ve actually shown up and ordered).

    I’m not impressed by the Wick. If I were you I’d be inclined to phone NOW and cancel, just out of pique.

  9. Not impressed by the restaurant. Charging you just because you cancel? They are SO not getting my business, and I’m glad they’re not getting yours again!

  10. To a very minor degree I can understand, as the Pointe isn’t likely to fill up no-show tables with a lot of walk-by traffic given its location.

    But…. it’s incredibly tacky, distrustful of customers (ie. there is no trust without a profit up front) and speaks to a sad lack of confidence on their part. The moment someone asks me for a credit card for a reservation is the last time I think about eating there. What next? Pre-authorizing my card for dinner before I eat to make sure I can pay? Good grief.

  11. I don’t think it’s a problem that they take the card number, if that ensures your reservation. Rather know in advance I have table than have to wait and wonder…

    Also if you did not show that would be lost projected income, especially for staff who depend on tips and realistically calculate their income including that money (I assume they also realistically calculate the expected service that goes along with it!)

    Not to mention that you would be depriving someone else who potentially wanted one, of a table.

    They do this at spas all the time. They take your card number and if you are late/don’t show, they charge a portion or full service to your card, unless you have cancelled 24 hours in advance, etc.

    I’m trying to think of other areas of the service industry where this takes place…?

    To the person who gives the info in advance of a date–kudos! Very impressive.

    My question is: What if you don’t have/want to use a card? What would they say if you said (as a matter of principle, etc.) you don’t have a card, or operate on a cash-only basis?

  12. They request a card at the Pan Pacific for New Year’s Day brunch… I do think that even though they are crazy busy that day they also don’t get any or many walk-ins so if a table no shows it is a loss plus they probably turn down other potential guests, because they thought they were full.

    I have eaten at A LOT of high end restaurants, in fact when we travel we always attempt to eat at a highly-rated restaurant in the city we are visiting because we love food, and the above is the only time I have been asked for a card in advance.


  13. I have a strong aversion to being charged any kind of fee/fine as a form of punishment.

    As a result I don’t rent DVDs, I don’t pay parking tickets and I don’t have a contract with any cell phone provider.

    Gosh, I really have an issue with this.

    I would have cancelled.

  14. @Chris. I don’t use them either! Fees are an excellent idea for a shared public resource like a library though.

    It’s not that disagree with the concept of fees I just don’t like paying them. It’s my problem not theirs.

  15. my guess is that this policy is their solution to some kind of problem (most likely one where reserved tables went unfilled by no-shows, and then couldn’t be filled because there aren’t walk-ins). however, i do think threatening/penalizing people before they do anything wrong is pretty tacky. i wonder if they have considered other solutions to the issue at all? a phone call to confirm you’ll be there a couple of days ahead, together with a waiting list might give them the desired results, with the added advantage of appearing to give a service to their customers rather than irritating them.

    but hey, i’ve never run a restaurant.

    the food at the wickannish was pretty terrific when we went. so that’s some consolation.

  16. Well your causing more trouble than what is obvious. By canceling reservations you have thrown the schedule out of whack. and now theres this gap with your exact party size and time that needs 2 be filled. I know of a restaurant that charges a 50$ gift card to your card for each member of the party for cancelled reservations. crazy i know

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