How best to combat the no-show issue?


How best to combat the no-show issue?

Empty table

With reports that guest no-shows and cancellations are 'crippling' independent restaurants across the UK, the no-show issue has moved into the spotlight over the past few months – particularly in the wake of special occasions such as Valentine's Day and Mother's Day. It's a problem that not only results in operators being out of pocket, but often in high numbers of empty tables casting a pall on the atmosphere – especially on special occasions where walk-ins are less likely due to guests having made other plans.

A number of high profile operators have added their views to the discussion. Chef Mark Greenaway of the three-AA-rosette Edinburgh restaurant has introduced a deposit scheme after recording 450 cancellations or no-shows in just one month, according to The Caterer, while Damian Wawrzyniak, owner of House of Feasts in Peterborough, launched the #StopNoShow campaign after revealing no-shows cost his business approximately £3,000 in just one weekend.

Our own research has found that over a six month period, 17% of guests cancelled a booking due to simply deciding to dine elsewhere, while 5.5% admitted to booking a table yet not showing up without cancelling. However, we also found that 58% of guests would be 'very likely' or 'likely' to be put off making a booking at all if asked for credit card details or a deposit in advance.

Interestingly, we discovered that the highest percentage of guests who are 'very likely' to be put off making a booking under these circumstances are those who favoured fine dining venues – perhaps indicating guests feel that asking for a deposit at this type of venue takes away from the fine dining experience.

Consequently, some restaurants have undertaken different strategies in order to tackle the no-show issue.

Big Hospitality suggested that those who have the time and resources to do so should call guests in the morning to confirm lunch and dinner bookings or work with a booking platform such as which does so on their behalf. Additionally, Big Hospitality reported that staff adding a personal reminder to guests when they book that if they can't make it, to call and cancel, "can reduce the no-show rate by a couple of percent".

Other strategies include giving guests a set period of time before giving away the table, such as a 15-minute window; sending out automated reminders; and turning the no-show charge on its head by refunding it as a gift card in the hope guests will choose to return to your venue at a later date. Finally, if it works for the location and style of your business, you could even refuse to take reservations at all.

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