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Red Medicine's call-outs: Do two wrongs make a right?

March 26, 2013|By Russ Parsons
  • Many restaurateurs have fantasized about taking revenge on no-shows.
Many restaurateurs have fantasized about taking revenge on no-shows. (Leslie Brenner / Los Angeles…)

Red Medicine is undoubtedly a fine restaurant. But the way things are going, it may wind up better known for its antics than its food. The Twitter and Facebook worlds are abuzz about its latest stunt.

Over the weekend, the Beverly Hills restaurant vented its frustration over no-show reservations by tweeting and Facebooking the names of offending customers.  

“Hi Kyle Anderson (323), I hope you enjoyed your gf’s bday and the flowers that you didn’t bring when you no-showed for your 815 res. Thanks,” one such tweet read.

Calling out customers by name? Has it really come to this? Well, Red Medicine and manager Noah Ellis have never been shy.

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It’s hard to say which party is right in this dispute – or maybe, more accurately, which is more wrong. Personally, I can’t imagine someone making a restaurant reservation and then not honoring it. But then again, I’m the kind of compulsively punctual guy who calls if I’m running more than five minutes late. I guess after 25 years, I’m still not truly an L.A. native.

On the other hand, public shaming without any effort at verification seems like a d-bag move. Granted, not all of those no-shows were unavoidably detained without access to a cellphone, but if you’re going to name names that way, don’t you have an obligation to find out?

I don’t know what measures Red Medicine has taken in the past, but it does seem to me that a more appropriate first step might have been to call the no-shows and explain what their rudeness cost.

But there’s no question that no-shows are a constant and serious problem for restaurants, especially small, expensive places that depend on filling every table in order to keep their business afloat. You don’t have to talk to a chef or restaurateur for very long before they begin to vent about the problem.

If you’ve got a restaurant with only a dozen tables, and four prime-time reservations don’t show up, that’s a 25% hit to your income. The restaurant business runs on a notoriously thin profit margin and even though places like this are almost invariably expensive for their customers, they’re also expensive to run.

But did Red Medicine go too far? The reaction has been mixed. On Twitter, Justin N made the point: “If more restaurants did this, people might be more respectful. It's like reverse Yelp.”

On the other hand, Jeremy Jourdan replied sarcastically: “Man, you guys are so edgy and cool!!” And along the same lines, Brandon Lars wrote on Facebook: “After what you did to that food critic by revealing her name because you wanted to be "edgy and cool." You deserve this. Don't be surprised to see more people like this.”

Ah yes, there is that. It seems like only yesterday that Red Medicine manager Noah Ellis kicked our restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila out of the restaurant even before she’d been seated, then took her photograph and posted it on the Internet.

One thing’s for sure, Red Medicine does know how to keep its name in the headlines.

[UPDATED: An earlier version of this story implied that the photograph was from Red Medicine. It is not.]

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