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Restaurants deal with graduation-dinner no-shows

“Graduates and their families are notorious for flakiness regarding celebratory dinner reservations,” says Erin Reilley, Bondir’s general manager.Jessica Rinaldi/reuters

Restaurateurs are mostly thrilled at graduation time, as families and friends descend upon local establishments to celebrate. Except when the expected parties are no-shows.

This year, some restaurateurs took to Twitter to vent about a penchant for graduates to book several restaurants at the same time.

“Note to self for next yr: lots of no-shows during graduation wkend due to indecisive grads making multiple ressies and forgetting to cancel,” Joanne Chang tweeted last week @MyersandChang about her South End spot.

“Dear Harvard grads who cancel your large party CONFIRMED reservations at the last minute ‘something just came up’, have fun ruling the world,” Rendezvous in Cambridge tweeted @RendezvousCS hours after Thursday’s graduation ceremony.


Multiple reservations during graduation typically occur “because parties or families make different bookings and don’t communicate,” says William Kovel, chef-owner of Catalyst near MIT. Others say families try to hedge all taste-bud bets for discerning eaters. On the big day, after making a decision, someone forgets to cancel the extra spots.

“It happens to every restaurant during graduation season and every restaurant tries to figure out what to do,” Chang says. “On Saturday, we had a bunch of no-shows. These were people we called and who confirmed the day before.”

Jason Bond, chef and owner of Bondir, retweeted Chang’s Twitter comment out of sympathy, though his Cambridge spot has had no problems this season. “Graduates and their families are notorious for flakiness regarding celebratory dinner reservations, often showing up late, with a different number of people than stated, or not showing up at all,” says Erin Reilley, Bondir’s general manager.

One way to curb the dilemma is for restaurants to hold reservations with a credit card. The recently opened Catalyst, in its first graduation season, requires credit cards for parties of nine persons or more. Failure to cancel by 4 p.m. the same day means a $100 fee, applicable toward a future booking. “We configure the floor plan and do a lot of preparation for that group,” Kovel says. “When that table doesn’t show up, you lose revenue.”


Showing up at a restaurant with a larger-than-expected party during graduation season is, surprisingly, typically accommodated. Reilley says Bondir makes some “strange table arrangements” leaving little wiggle room. At Myers and Chang, “If the party is bigger, we play Tetris with tables,” Chang says.

With another week left to graduation season, Chang is considering adopting the credit card hold policy. Reilley says Bondir will “have a little faith” that grads will honor their reservations without credit card holds.

The upside of graduation season is that it results in “the smoothest of nights,” says Chang. It’s easier to cook for and service big parties than small parties.

“And everyone is so happy to be seeing each other.”

Peggy Hernandez can be reached at mphernan1