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Sydney Restaurants Were Hit By "Disappointing" and "Upsetting" No-Shows Just One Day After Reopening

Right now, filling every seat is crucial — so why are people still not showing up for bookings?
By Cordelia Williamson
May 19, 2020

Sydney Restaurants Were Hit By "Disappointing" and "Upsetting" No-Shows Just One Day After Reopening

Right now, filling every seat is crucial — so why are people still not showing up for bookings?
By Cordelia Williamson
May 19, 2020

Last weekend, Sydney looked a little different than it has since COVID-19 took over our lives and shutdown our hospitality venues in March. We sat in cafes with our coffees, had a pub feed with mates and went out to dinner — all of which had been off the cards for months.

There were some restrictions, though. The strict ten-person limit meant, for us, that getting a table was trickier than usual. For those on the other side of the kitchen pass, it meant filling every one of those ten seats was crucial. With so few tables allowed at a time, making a profit was either out of the question or going to be pretty slim. But, still some went empty, with several venues having bookings that simply didn't show up. Not even a phone call. Even in normal circumstances, it's a pretty bad move. Now? Unfathomable.

One of those cursed with a no-show on opening weekend was celebrated chef Mat Lindsay's Surry Hills wine bar Poly. One of the top spots in town, with an award-winning chef behind it, the wine bar reopened as Petite Poly, with bookings available on Friday and Saturday. But, people just didn't show. "Clearly ten seats is not going to generate huge income but it all helps," Lindsay told Concrete Playground. "More than that, though, we were excited to provide a place so people could come out finally and get a little hospitality and some food that didn't come in a box and reheated. And our team were really excited to be providing that again. Mostly I was upset for the people that came wanting and excited to be there, but we had to turn them away disappointed only for the seats to go empty."

Poly, Kitti Gould

Up the road at Crown Street's late-night bar Low 302, another table went to waste. A four-person table — which is 40 percent of every venue's capacity right now — didn't show up. Nor did they call to cancel, meaning the bar couldn't fill it with one of the many people on its waitlist.

"No shows, whilst maximum capacity numbers are so restricted, is an extra issue that nobody in hospo needs right now," owner Aref Jaroudy told CP. "It was so disappointing for the crew. We're not going to make bank with just ten people. It was turning people away that was the most upsetting for us. It's a shame. We got slammed with potential bookings when we announced we were opening. To say no, you feel like you're letting them down."

As a result, you'll now have to pre-pay for a set menu at Poly when making a booking, something the team had wanted to avoid. Low 302 is going ahead with no deposit for this weekend's upcoming bookings, but if there's another no show, it might have to make the switch.

Hi Aimee We thank you for making a booking at Low for four people. Right now that is 40% of our entire capacity. The...

Posted by Low 302 on Saturday, 16 May 2020

Some Sydney restaurants required a deposit straight off the bat, including Marta in Rushcutters Bay and Potts Point diner Chester White. Others are only taking reservations for private parties of up to ten people, requiring a minimum spend, which is paid at time of booking. Such venues include the CBD's multi-level restaurant and nightclub Prince of York, Maurice Terzini's Ciccia Bella in Bondi and Woollahra's I Maccheroni.

Paddington's Tequila Mockingbird started off with walk-ins to get a grasp for it all and is now taking bookings, taking credit card details for bookings of six or more and has a $100 minimum spend for groups of eight to ten. When asked about people cancelling if sick, owner Michael Fegent told CP: "I don't want to give people too many rules. We'll adjust as we go."

For more spontaneous diners, you can head to venues like Maybe Frank, Chaco Ramen and Pizza Fritta, which are walk-in only at this time.

Chaco Ramen

It's no secret the hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions. According to website I Lost My Hospo Shift, at last count, 2614 Aussie hospo workers had lost their jobs and 13,339 shifts had been cut, which equates to over $2 million in lost wages this week alone. So, despite the no shows, the limited capacities and turning people away, Sydney pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes reopening is a big win.

If you've got a booking and can't make it — a situation that is sometimes inevitable — or wake up with so much as a sniffle, restaurants and bar owners ask you to at least call ahead of time, so they can offer the spot to a walk-in or someone else on the waiting list.

"If a person is feeing in anyway unwell, the last thing they should be doing is going out to a restaurant," Jaroudy told CP. "Nor should they be penalised — say if a deposit had been taken — if they cannot make the booking...There's no one size fits all perfect solution here. If you are unwell, stay home. If you can call and cancel that's great."

To find out what other Sydney restaurants are now open to dine-service, have a look over here.

Top Image: Poly by Kitti Gould

Published on May 19, 2020 by Cordelia Williamson

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