Here's the Number One Excuse People Use When Cancelling Restaurant Reservations

Just be honest.

An empty booth at a crowded restaurant

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It's 6 pm, and your phone buzzes, reminding you of your reservation happening in 30 minutes. You see this calendar alert while cozied up watching Netflix, and suddenly, waves of panic overwhelm you. That mildly discomforting pit slowly grows in your stomach, reminding you that you entered your credit card to book the table, but there's just absolutely no way you're getting off the couch to make it to this restaurant. So, it's time for you to call the host, put on your best show, and ramble off your best excuse. Oh, did you say your great-aunt, three times removed, is sick? That's a terrible lie, because as it turns out, that's exactly what every other reservation deserter says too.

While you should be ashamed of yourself, you're not alone. A whopping 71% of Americans would never pay to cancel a reservation at a restaurant, according to SevenRooms, a restaurant tech platform that surveyed thousands of Americans. Instead, they'd choose to give the reservation away, beg for a refund, or just straight-up lie. And usually, that lie is about a phantom family emergency.

The survey, the team at SevenRooms shared with Food & Wine, was carried out in collaboration with YouGov to explore the lengths Americans will go to in an attempt to avoid paying cancellation fees.

"When a diner no-shows, it can be devastating for a restaurant." Josh Todd, CMO of SevenRooms, says. "Not only do they miss out on revenue, but they also miss the opportunity to show that diner an incredible hospitality experience." 

Still, even with the threat of fees, diners have no chill when canceling plans. According to the survey, 20% of respondents will fake medical situations, while 21% will use family emergencies as an excuse. 

But, perhaps in a bit of good news, 35% said they'd change their current plans to make it to their reservation on time, and 55% said they'd give their reservation away to a friend instead.

Some Americans also reported their willingness to pay the cancellation fee — but with a catch. For example, 38% of respondents shared they would consider the fines as long as they are under $10. 

Todd explains that this data is essential because restaurants can create better policies that suit their customer's preferences. He continues, "When diners enjoy better experiences, they don't feel like they have to fake a medical emergency to get their money back."

While restaurants know cancellations are bound to arise, whether they're based on real emergencies or not, many ask that you have proper etiquette when canceling. And in doing so, it's also to your benefit. Because those same reservation tech platforms keep track of your cancellations and suspend your account if you accumulate too many. 

So, to avoid the embarrassment of getting banned from restaurant booking apps, SevenRooms advises you to cancel as far in advance as possible, call the host to reschedule, or do as 55% of Americans said they would and give your reservation away to a friend or family member. 

"Restaurant hosts have seen it all before, so don't make up an elaborate story about why you shouldn't have to pay the fee," Todd said. "Instead, be honest, and they'll usually understand and be able to accommodate you in some way."

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