from the PLEASE-TAKE-YOUR-BUSINESS-ELSEWHERE dept
Grill 225 has done the stupid thing of inserting a quasi-non-disparagement clause into its fine print -- something no one will actually see until they make a reservation. (h/t Venkat Balasubramani)
According to an 832-word “dining contract” sent to guests making reservations for five or more people, Grill 225 will exact a $50 per person penalty if the reservation holder cancels all or some of the requested seats within 24 hours of the party’s arrival. No-shows are subject to the same fee.That's one part of the stupid. A fairly strict and excessive cancellation policy in an unnecessarily long "dining contract." Understandably, no-shows and cancellations are a burden on restaurants, but charging large fees (and forcing people to agree to 832 words of fine print) is a great way to ensure fewer reservations and fewer diners. And does anything excite a potential diner more than signing a long "dining contract" before even having the opportunity to sample the food?
But it doesn't end there. Grill 225 feels some people might get a little testy when asked to shell out $50 per person for cancelling a reservation. So, it has added another mostly-baseless legal threat to its "contract."
Grill 225’s contract includes an additional clause: “By agreeing to these terms and conditions, the guest(s) and their party agree that they may be held legally liable for generating any potential negative, verbal or written defamation against Grill 225.”Now, if by "potential defamation" this clause means "defamation," then the clause is wholly unnecessary because defamation is actually something you can take someone to court for without their signature on a "dining contract."
So, the only thing left to be "enforced" by this clause would be stuff that isn't actually defamation, but whatever the restaurant considers "potential" defamation... which would mean things that aren't legally actionable. But the clause makes it appear as though that sort of thing would also be targeted, especially if the complaint revolves around excessive cancellation fees.
Since this was reported, Grill 225 has walked back its "defamation" policy, saying it was only meant to discourage no-shows and fee-related retaliatory reviews.
It is the intent of the provision in question not to control honest and experience-based opinions, but to prevent false comments made in retaliation for our enforcement of an industry practice, to charge large parties for no-notice no-shows.And it has apparently removed the clause that served no purpose other than to foster ill will in potential customers.
Much like revisions made in menu details, restaurants often must revisit policies and procedures. We have done so and our policy has been re-written to prevent any misunderstanding. It has never been the intent of Grill 225 to limit our customer’s right to opine about a visit at our restaurant. In fact, we welcome both accolades and concerns. The restaurant business is ever-changing as are the demands of our diners.We learn and react to comments about our restaurant constantly and we greatly appreciate open and honest communication about what we are doing, right and wrong.This is the way it always should have been, but the insertion of a clause that dangled the threat of litigation over the heads of unhappy diners was completely the wrong way to approach the perceived problem. If the business was so concerned the public would react negatively to its no-show fee, perhaps it should have taken a closer look at that, rather than trying to proactively quell complaints with some dodgy legalese.