Making a booking with a restaurant is a contract and the establishment can charge you if you don't turn up, Consumer NZ says.

But Mark McGuinness, who owns the Belgian Beer Cafe Tarenhof in central Christchurch and called a group of customers "tossers" on Facebook after only half their 40-person booking showed up, says he doesn't have any intention of chasing the no-showers for compensation.

McGuinness acknowledges that he probably shouldn't have made the social media comments but said people needed to realise flaking on big bookings costs businesses dearly - in wasted food costs and lost revenue from turning down other bookings.

It may be surprising for people to learn that restaurants can charge customers who book but don't turn up.

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In a summary of punters' rights when dining out at restaurants, Consumer NZ says making a booking "creates a contract which places obligations on both parties".

"If you don't turn up, the restaurant can legitimately claim you have broken the contract and caused it to lose business. If you realise in advance you won't be able to make it, let the restaurant know. They're unlikely to charge if you tell them in reasonable time," the consumer advocacy service says.

But this cuts both ways and if you've booked a table and a restaurant can't provide one you too can push for compensation.

"If it can't provide your table, the restaurant has broken its contract with you," Consumer NZ says.

"You can claim any expenses you have incurred, such as travelling costs, using a Disputes Tribunal if necessary."