SoCo has a poop list. It’s a short poop list. In fact, there are only five people on it. I did the math, and on average we’ve picked up a person for the list every 78 days since we opened. I think that’s pretty good.
Now, the poop list isn’t for people who get a little rowdy or “misbehave.” First, what happens at SoCo stays at SoCo. Second, the slightly rowdy groups are the fun groups, who return multiple times and genuinely appreciate what we have here. And most of these groups are friends of ours.
The poop list is really a “liability list,” and it’s for one small group: those people who cancelled their reservations at the last minute. By “last minute,” I mean with only a couple of days to spare, after we’ve planned their menu, I’ve bought my ingredients and it’s too late for me to gather folks from my mailing list.
We’re not like other restaurants. When we take reservations for a dinner group (sometimes just 8 or 10 people) we plan our food purchases and we tell everyone else who calls or emails “that night is taken.” When the reservations are cancelled at the last minute, we are left with an empty table and extra food we can’t use.
We don’t currently take deposits with the reservations, and some people have said this is a mistake. But, living in the South, I’ve become so enamored with sealing deals with handshakes and being able to take people at their word. Hopefully my being enamored doesn’t get expensive for the business.
But it’s tough, because cancelling with us is less like cancelling a restaurant reservation, and much more like cancelling pans to eat dinner at a friend’s house at the last minute.
The most recent cancellation was also the best. It cost me (a charitably calculated) $600. It was a reservation for a 30-person birthday party, which we went out on a limb to accommodate. We rented a second table, extra plates and glasses, and had another person coming in to help us serve.
I should have known something was amiss when 4 days before the event, my contact person dropped off the face of the planet. I put the brakes on the plans, but what should have been a great evening was now an unsalvageable, expensive mess. At least the reason for cancelling was good.
I mean, it is possible that this person’s relative became gravely ill, spouse developed shingles, pet goat got the sniffles and son’s hamster escaped all in the same week. Then again, it doesn’t matter; they weren’t coming.
Could the organizer of the giant birthday-circus-fiasco have returned just one of my calls or emails during my day-and-a-half of trying to make contact? I would have thought so.
At least I hadn’t yet hired the clown or rented the inflatable ball pit. Then again, maybe I should have. It would have been just me, Kimberly and a rent-a-clown—probably all drunk—jumping around in an inflatable ball pit. Hmm. Maybe next time.
Also, when someone uses the tried-and-tested explanation involving a sick or dying loved one, you can’t really say anything—and they know this. I can imagine a possible phone conversation.
“Can I talk to her?”
“Your dying great aunt. Can you give me her number?”
“Why—because you’re lying?”
“My God, no! I can’t believe you’re being like this! Besides, everyone knows she can’t talk on the phone because she’s deaf!”
“Yeah, she used to be a ninja and took a throwing star to the ear drum while defending the emperor of Japan.”
“Wow. But, what about her other ear drum?”
“People have two ear drums. What about her other ear? Was the injury a through-and-through?”
“Um, she can’t hold a phone because she has no arms.”
“Yep. Lost ‘em to a giant squid while rescuing drowning baby seals.”
“I have to go. My pants are on fire.” (click)
I know better than to respond to the cancellation emails and phone messages from these poor souls. I figure that my screaming “A POX ON YOU, PICKLEDICK!” into the phone isn’t going to help for more than a brief moment, especially if their loved one is indeed sick.
So, I just add their names to my poop list. I note if they cancelled by phone or email, and how close to the reservation date they cancelled.
I also include a note about whether they contacted me to cancel, or cancelled only after I got a hold of them. Four of the five on my list chose the latter option.
And I have to write their names down because I know I’ll forget them.
I’ll forget them among the hundreds of fantastic, fun, foodie dinner groups who join us. I’ll forget them during the nights we sit, talking with our guests until midnight or later, and are still sorry to see them leave when they go. I’ll forget those who cancelled every time an excited dinner group sits down at our table and gushes over the fresh baked bread and homemade bacon-honey butter that precedes the meal.
But if someone from the poop list should call…what then? Let bygones be bygones? Ask for a deposit? Tell them there are no available nights until 2015?
That, my friend, is a great question.