Melbourne restaurant fines patron almost $1100 for cancelling reservation

Navi restaurant in Melbourne, inset a photo of the complaining customer
After falling ill, Quiambao said she nixed the booking on Thursday - but later received an email from the restaurant saying she'd been charged AU$1020 (NZ$1093) for the cancellation. Photo credit: @restaurantnavi / Instagram, Facebook

A Melbourne restaurant has come under fire after a customer was slapped with a AU$1020 fee for cancelling her booking. 

Taking to social media late last week, Lorida Quiambao claimed she'd been hit with the fee for cancelling a six-person booking two days ahead of time, in line with what she believed was a 48-hour cancellation policy. 

She explained she'd reserved a table of six for 8pm last Saturday at the popular Yarraville venue Navi, a fine-dining restaurant that offers a set menu for AU$170 per head.

After falling ill, Quiambao said she nixed the booking on Thursday - but later received an email from the restaurant saying she'd been charged AU$1020 (NZ$1093) for the cancellation. 

"No restaurant or business should be allowed to charge these kinds of cancellation fees as an offhand thing," Quiambao wrote on Facebook.

The patron also claimed she cancelled her booking with 48 hours' notice, a condition she had seen on Navi's website - but an email she later received from the manager said they in fact required a minimum of five days' notice. 

A screenshot of the email, shared to Quiambao's social media, read: "We are sorry you have had to cancel your booking with us. As per our terms and conditions, if your cancellation is within the 48 hours of your reservation, you will be charged the full price of the menu per person."

The email the patron received confirming the fee
The restaurant has defended its policy, noting that it will always refund the patron in full of the cancelled booking can be filled. Photo credit: Instagram

In a statement to 7News, a spokesperson for Navi said the patron was refunded in full when the restaurant was able to find another group to fill the table.

"At 2.58pm [on Saturday] we managed to fill the table and the patron has been refunded in full," the spokesperson said, as quoted by 7News. 

They added that the fee is outlined in the venue's cancellation policy, noting that refunds are always issued in full if staff are able to fill the reserved table.

The restaurant had been seeking an alternate group for the table on Friday, writing on their Instagram: "A last-minute cancellation has left us with a very rare table of six for tomorrow (Saturday) night."

After the table was filled, they updated the post with the caption: "Updated at 3pm: the table has now been filled - thank you for your support. For those asking, the patron with the previous booking has been refunded in full."

Additionally, the restaurant took to social media following Quiambao's complaints to share the wording of their policy, which outlines the actions Navi takes if a customer cancels outside of the outlined time periods. 

However, Quiambao claimed she was never informed that she would be refunded if her reservation could be filled by another group, and wasn't told that the staff were actively trying to find other guests for the table. 

"The restaurant posted this on their social media and also told 7News this before ever trying to communicate this with me," she said. "And I have still not yet received a confirmation on a refund nor has the restaurant told me."

The restaurant has since claimed that for bookings of fewer than four, only 48 hours' notice is required, reported. However, for bookings of five and above, any cancellations should be made five days in advance, it said.

The restaurant explained its cancellation policy online - screenshots
The restaurant explained its cancellation policy online after attracting backlash. Photo credit: @restaurantnavi / Instagram

Navi's chef and owner Julian Hill has also defended the policy online, claiming the intimate venue only has one table of six - which equates to "one quarter of our restaurant". 

"If we fill the table, which we make all efforts to do (including contacting those on our waiting list and sharing on socials) we refund," Hill added.

"I'm a small business and can't afford to take the hit of a quarter of my restaurant missing without ample time to fill."

The situation has proved divisive: while many have sworn not to set foot in a restaurant that requires a deposit or credit card to secure a table, others have defended the small business for looking after its financial wellbeing. 

"It's a very odd, backwards practice," one said, with another adding: "I've never heard of varying cancellation policies based on table numbers."

"They're also booked out every single day for the entire available booking period - except for a table for six for 8pm (on Saturday)," a third pointed out. "Unlikely anyone would even realise they could get a table for six on a Saturday night on such short notice. So your cancellation would likely have impacted [the restaurant] financially. You agreed to it when you booked."

"To the people who are calling them scammers you are way off base, chef Julian puts his heart and soul into that place and his staff are just as passionate. Go spew your venom elsewhere," another declared, with one woman agreeing: "People likely are unaware of your attention to detail, behind the scenes foraging, harvesting, planning, preparing, let alone the table service during the seating. You have loyal followers who won’t be deterred by this woman's hype."

Navi's website highlights it's a small, intimate venue that books up weeks, if not months in advance. Reservations for the restaurant open on the first Wednesday of the month at 10am, two months ahead.

As of the date of publishing, it is accepting reservations for June.