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With more people dining out, restaurants are reporting a new problem: No-shows

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 5:15 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 26, 2021 at 5:21 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Relaxed COVID restrictions and a tourism boom mean more people are dining out.

And while restaurants appreciate the increased business, they say they’re dealing with a new problem: A large number of no-shows.

MW Restaurant is one of many Hawaii eateries grappling with the trend.

“One night we had one whole section of our restaurant that was completely empty because people didn’t show up, and they didn’t call to cancel either,” said Michelle Karr-Ueoka.

She and her husband, Wade Ueoka, own the award-winning eatery.

STRIPSTEAK Waikiki is another popular establishment that’s dealing with the inconvenience of inconsiderate reservation makers.

No-shows lock up tables that sit unused while walk-in customers are kept waiting or are turned away.

“On average we lose between 60 to 80 people who just don’t show up for their reservation, or don’t send a courtesy call or anything like that, daily. So it forces us as an operation to almost overbook,” said Nishaan Chavda, senior operations manager for Mina Group.

Eateries of all sizes and on all islands are being affected.

The Hawaii Restaurant Association said the no-show problem isn’t new but it’s gotten worse. Executive Director Sheryl Matsuoka can’t put her finger on why.

“Right now restaurants are very shorthanded,” she said. “On top of being shorthanded, we really want to be sure that if you are going to make a reservation that you honor it.”

She said it’s especially bad on weekends.

Karr-Ueoka said restaurateurs suspect that some people are booking identical reservations at several eateries and choosing one without canceling the others.

“We could have had someone who was on the waitlist come and dine with us. At the same time, we have a server who expected that many tables and they didn’t get it,” she said.

Matsuoka said reservations help restaurants plan for a certain number of diners. When they don’t show up, perishable food items that could have been used go to waste. Meanwhile, walk-in customers frustrated at waiting in line might turn to social media to vent.

“Those Yelp reviews is one thing that all restaurants fear. You don’t want a bad review,” she said.

Some restaurants HRA represents stopped taking reservations entirely, while some now require non-refundable deposits.

Karr-Ueoka and Chavda don’t want to resort to those measures. They hope talking about the problem will remind people who make reservations to keep up their end of the bargain.

“At the end of the day we’re a hospitality business. And if we’re not using hospitality as our forefront, it takes away from everything that we stand for,” Chavda said.

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