According to a study reported in Scientific American, one Chicago restaurateur decreased his no-show rate from 30 percent to 10 percent simply by changing the telephone script. Instead of saying, "Please call if you have to change your plans," the receptionist added, "Will you please call ..." and then awaited a reply. Having given their word, customers seemed loath to renege. The men we spoke to claim that they always call at least once to confirm large groups, and one of them admits he routinely overbooks tables by about 10 percent to account for absentees.
The St. Louis owners and managers speculate that truants make reservations at more than one restaurant and then decide at the last minute what they feel like eating and which place offers the best time slot. "People really like having a reservation because they hate to wait and want to know exactly what time they'll be seated," Thompson observes. Carter says this courtesy should be reciprocated. "We accept reservations because we want a guaranteed guest," he explains candidly. Bommarito, who notes crustily that no-shows at Tony's are almost exclusively out-of-town visitors, believes it's a matter of civility. "What is good manners?" he rails indignantly. "Consideration of other people, and not showing up is very inconsiderate. People should get good manners."