A diner whose dad died on New Year’s Eve has been left ‘utterly disgusted’ he couldn’t get his £660 Michelin Star dinner reservation refunded. Martin O’Grady prepaid the amount to secure his booking for the special tasting menu at The Fordwich Arms, in Kent, on New Year’s Eve.
Mr O’Grady had reserved a table for six at the restaurant, which sold out a month in advance, to celebrate his birthday and bring in the New Year. But his father suffered an accident on December 27 and sadly died the day of the reservation.
Mr O’Grady said a member of his group called the restaurant on the day of the accident to request to change the booking. He said restaurant staff at the AA Hospitality Awards’ Restaurant of the Year, said the payment was non-refundable, leaving the bereaved diner feeling ‘compelled to share his horrifying story’.
However, restaurant manager Daniel Smith told KentLive the £660 was a pre-payment for the ‘premium expensive ingredients’ bought in especially for New Year’s Eve, calculated on the number of customers attending.
He said the first contact they’d received from the O’Grady family was on December 28 and told the family the tickets were non-refundable but could be transferred or sold to someone else. However, as they were unable to fill the table at such short notice, he offered to refund two tickets for Mr O’Grady and his partner, or if other family members wished to attend, the price of the two tickets could be put towards drinks.
Mr O’Grady criticised managers’ responses as ‘inhumane behaviour’ in a Facebook post: ‘I am doing something I’ve never done before – leaving a poor review as a result of an appalling experience at a restaurant… ‘A party of six of us pre-booked a table at this restaurant for my birthday on New Year’s Eve. We paid a deposit of £660.
‘Very sadly my father had an accident on December 27 which led to his passing on New Year’s Eve, my birthday and the date of our booking. 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. 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. When asked how management view such extenuating circumstances the manager and owners neither cared nor wanted to hear anything about it. Another recital of terms and conditions ensued. We are utterly disgusted by this experience, not to mention £660 worse off, and just feel compelled to share this horrifying story with anyone ever considering making a reservation at this establishment.’
‘There are no words. I just feel everyone should be aware of what kind of people run this place and draw their own conclusions before ever considering making a reservation at this place. ‘Are Guy, Daniel and Natasha really in business? I wonder what the Michelin Group would think about how they are represented in this instance. ‘Good luck to them if that’s how they conduct their business. We will certainly never be returning.’ Manager Mr Smith said after receiving notice that the O’Grady family wished to change the booking, he said managers immediately called two tables on the waiting list but they had already made plans elsewhere.
Mr Smith said: ‘First of all I would like to say how sorry we are to hear of Mr O’Grady’s loss… ‘The reason we charge a pre-payment for these events is that all the food is bought in especially for the menus we offer which allows us to purchase exactly what we are going to use in the evening. With it being New Year’s Eve, this particular menu utilised a lot of premium expensive ingredients which were purchased specifically for the event and ensures that no food is wasted. ‘As a small independent restaurant in the current financial climate, it is vital we take steps like these to take pre-payments to protect our business. We have a high number of staff to ensure we provide the best experience possible. However this means that margins are very tight as always in restaurants.’