Victorian restaurant’s steep $170 cancellation charge – is it fair?

Would-be-diners will be slung a whooping $170 each if they fail to show up for a reservation at a prestigious Victorian restaurant.

Brae in the regional town of Birregurra has amended its cancellation policy as the hospitality industry navigates a post-pandemic landscape.

While all fees will be waived and deposits refunded for those who can’t travel due to Covid, any other cancellations will prove costly.

Brae sign and flowers at the gate (left) and Brae restaurant exterior (right)
Brae in the Victorian town of Birregurra has raised eyebrows over a $170 charge if customers cancel their reservation within a week of their booking. Source: Instagram

In an update on its website, the restaurant warns customers that a cancellation or change of date more than seven days out from a booking will see $25 docked off the full refund of any deposit paid.

While those who pull the pin within the 7-day window will only receive 50 per cent of their deposit back.

In Brae’s case, the deposit for dining reservations is the full menu price of $340 per person, meaning it will cost potential patrons $170 each to cancel their plans within seven days.

Restaurant defends cancellation fees

In hitting back at media reports over its charges, the restaurant took to social media to defend itself.

“For those planning to visit Brae soon, rest assured that cancellation fees are waived for diners who are unable to visit due to Covid,” it clarified in a post on Instagram.

Brae also added it was always up front about cancellation policies.

“We do that ourselves, very clearly on the reservations page of our website, again within the booking process itself and in confirmation emails," the restaurant said online.

“We have no reason to hide this necessary policy from anyone.”

Pricey minimum spends at exclusive restaurants

In the face of rising Covid cases, staff shortages and cost of living increases, many restaurants are following suit and implementing tougher cancellation charges and minimum spends.

Several venues under the Merivale umbrella in Sydney feature costly losses for those who aren’t able to make their reservation.

At Mr Wong in the city, Fred’s in Paddington and mimi’s at Coogee Beach, diners must fork out a deposit of $100 per person to secure their booking.

The Coogee Pavillon exterior (left) and a table at the window inside mimi's (right)
Several Merivale restaurants, including mimi's at Coogee Beach, insist on a $100 deposit to secure a booking which also acts as a minimum spend. Source: Instagram

Whilst this contributes to the total bill, it also acts as a minimum spend.

“In the event of a cancellation within 48 hours of the booking time, the $100 per person pre-paid amount will be retained as a cancellation fee/no show fee,” according to Merivale’s website.

It is unclear how long this policy has been in place.

Yahoo News Australia reached out to Merivale for comment on Tuesday but is yet to hear back.

Social media divided on cancellation policies

To charge or not to charge has left Australians divided with many jumping to the defence of restaurants that implement harsh policies to protect their bottom lines.

“No shows cost restaurants money. If you make a booking, turn up. Support the hospitality industry,” one person wrote on Instagram.

“It’s a level of protection for restaurants,” another said. “We simply want to stay financially viable for our guests who choose to book ahead and show up on time.”

Busy tables, staff and diners inside Mr Wong (left) and the kitchen at Fred's
If diners cancel their booking at Mr Wong or Fred's within 48 hours of their reservation, they will lose their full $100 deposit. Source: Instagram

“Fine dining restaurants pour countless time and money into preparing for people to come, and for too long people have been letting restaurants down by cancelling at the last minute,” someone else said.

While others have been quick to rule out even making a booking at venues that charge exorbitant cancellation fees.

“Yep won’t be going to those places,” one person wrote on Facebook.

“Pubs and clubs [are] looking more and more attractive,” another said.

“Go to a local pub,” another agreed, “[it will be] heaps cheaper and heaps more fun.”

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