Restaurants & Bars | May 21, 2021 3:03 pm

On Instagram, Keith McNally Bans Graydon Carter From His Restaurants

Pro tip: don't cancel reservations an hour after they were supposed to start

Graydon Carter
Graydon Carter attends HBO Hosts The Premiere Of "The Inventor: Out For Blood In Silicon Valley" at Warner Media Screening Room on February 28, 2019 in New York City.
Patrick McMullan via Getty Image

In a 2020 Vanity Fair profile, Claire Howorth concisely described the aesthetic and the influence of restaurateur Keith McNally. “[H]is vibe is distinctly this city, specifically Manhattan, and it’s been endlessly imitated, inexpertly duplicated,” Howorth wrote. McNally is indeed behind some of New York’s most iconic restaurants, and he’s had a decades-long string of successes.

It turns out, though, that certain things can get under his skin — and in a recent display of righteous anger, he took aim at another high-profile figure with a long history of building institutions: Air Mail founder Graydon Carter.

According to Page Six, the flare-up began when Carter made a reservation for 12 at 1 pm at McNally’s restaurant Morandi — and then never showed up. “Because Mr Carter’s a restaurateur himself, my chef, manager and floor staff were eager for the lunch to go perfectly for him,” McNally wrote on Instagram. “Extra staff were brought in to help with service, and 2 tables of 6 were meticulously set up and ready for Graydon Carter by 1pm. Only he didn’t show up at 1pm.” Carter’s assistant called at 2 to say that the party wouldn’t be coming, according to McNally’s account of the events.

McNally also stated that Carter had done this before — “Once at Minetta Tavern and twice at Balthazar” — and went on to announce that Carter “will never be allowed to make a reservation at one of my restaurants again.” (Albeit with more profanity.)

Watching two big names quarrel over high-end restaurant reservations can be entertaining, but McNally makes a good point — this kind of thing has a negative effect on restaurants’ bottom line and affects the livelihoods of the people who work there. There’s nothing wrong with canceling a reservation, but doing so an hour after that reservation was set to begin isn’t exactly the height of etiquette.

UPDATE: Graydon Carter has responded to McNally via the following statement:

“My office did forget to cancel the lunch reservation until a bit after 1:30, which is wretched and we will be making a donation today to the restaurant’s tip pool to cover what the staff would have made.

As a fellow restaurateur I fully understand the implications of a large party no show.

As for the rest of McNally’s deranged rant, it is pure fiction. I rarely eat at his places and this all stems from the story we did about his most recent Instagram controversies in last week’s Air Mail.”