A Michelin star restaurant in Kent refused to refund a £660 prepayment on a New Year’s Eve tasting menu after a father unexpectedly died the day the family was supposed to dine.
Martin O'Grady booked and paid £660 for a New Year’s Eve dinner for six people, however after suffering an accident on December 27 O’Grady’s father passed away the day of the booking.
After calling the Fordwich Arms to inform them he couldn’t attend he found he was unable to move the reservation or receive a full refund. Frustrated, O’Grady took to Facebook to complain that he felt "utterly disgusted" and "felt compelled to share this horrifying story".
“One of our party called the restaurant on December 27 in advance to make the manager, Elliot, aware of what had happened and to request a postponement of our dinner date,” O’Grady told Kent Live.
"He received a recital of nonsense about terms and conditions and that our dinner date could neither be refunded nor changed to a later date. We were not seeking a refund.
"We were simply requesting a goodwill gesture to allow us to change our reservation to a later date once I had a chance to return to the UK."
Mr. O'Grady said that staff "neither cared nor wanted to hear anything about" extenuating circumstances and added that he is now "£660 worse off."
The Fordwich Arms, which was voted England's restaurant of the year at the AA hospitality awards in September, explained the situation from their point of view.
"Sorry to hear of Mr. O'Grady's loss," said Daniel Smith, one of the restaurant's managers, but he was clear that the restaurant staff had done everything possible to accommodate Mr. O’Grady.
"We informed the individual that unfortunately the tickets for our New Year's Eve dinner menu were non-refundable,” he explained. “However, they were transferable to another person if they wished to pass them on or sell them on.
"Once we had heard the news our manager immediately phoned the two tables on the waiting list. However, at the late stage, they had already made plans elsewhere."
"We also informed them that we would be happy to refund the two tickets of the couple whose father was unwell or put it towards drinks had the other four wished to attend the booking,” he said.
"However, we were informed that none of the party of friends would be attending the booking."
Reservation no shows are a problem for the industry and can affect a restaurant’s ability to stay open if they happen too often. The Fordwich Arms, claim that the disputed £660 for the New Year’s Eve menu was a prepayment and reflected the fact that they bought specific ingredients for the meal.
"We charge a prepayment for these events [because] the food is bought in especially for the menus we offer which allow us to purchase exactly what we are going to use in the evening,” explained Smith.
"With it being New Year's Eve, this particular menu utilized a lot of premium expensive ingredients which were purchased specifically for the event and ensures that no food is wasted."