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Is it OK to publicly shame no-shows?

People who fail to show up for a dinner reservation cost the restaurant money, whether it’s because of an emergency or mere thoughtlessness. A reservation holds a table that the eatery would otherwise use to feed paying customers, who would then also tip their server.

On Saturday, popular Los Angeles eatery Red Medicine called out no-shows by name on Twitter, sparking a social media debate on whether public shaming is the right way to go. The restaurant tweeted, “All the nice guests who wonder why restaurants overbook and they sometimes have to wait for their res should thank people like those below,” following with two more missives that name names. Managing Partner Noah Ellis told Eater LA that his frustration got the better of him, but he also says he has good reason to be frustrated.

“It’s always been a problem here (at the restaurant and in LA as a whole), but it’s tricky — those restaurants that overbook to protect themselves punish the guests who show up on time for their reservations, but not the people who no-show,” Ellis said.

Red Medicine quit overbooking after realizing it was penalizing guests who showed up to celebrate a special occasion by making them wait 30 minutes or more in the bar, while no-shows suffered no consequence for tying up tables. The eatery also tried taking a credit card with reservations but found that it was losing business because many people would not put down a card, Ellis told Eater.

Unsurprisingly, Red Medicine’s tweets, the Eater post and follow-up coverage from other media sparked a slew of comments. Equally frustrated restaurateurs offered support, while some found the shaming so offensive that they said they will never eat at Red Medicine.

The tweets name seven people who didn’t show up for their reservation. One contacted Ellis afterward with an explanation and was invited back, according to ABC News.

Restaurants nationwide deal with the same problem, but it might be especially bad in Los Angeles, where assistants routinely book multiple reservations for their boss, Red Medicine spokesman Brian Rosman told Today.

“For a small restaurant like Red Medicine, even a couple of tables really affects them,” Rosman said. “People don’t realize that this causes real problems for a restaurant.”

Does your restaurant struggle with no-shows? How do you handle it? Is naming and shaming the answer? Tell us in the comments.

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