What Your Restaurant Can Do to Limit No-showsHow to avoid late cancellations and empty tables

Customers failing to turn up for bookings at restaurants—so called ‘no-shows’—are costing the UK hospitality industry 16 billion a year.

As an overall figure that is shocking, but what can you do when you are feeling the impact of no-shows in a personal way?

And why is that almost one-in-five (19%) Brits have admitted to failing to arrive for a restaurant reservation over the past four weeks?

Why are no-shows happening?

The lack of a human touch in online booking systems may be partly responsible for the growing trend in customer no-shows, however 67% of customers questioned stated that the booking method has no impact on whether or not they honour a reservation.

Meanwhile, 30% of respondents who failed to show up for a recent booking, had made more than one reservation for a restaurant at the exact same time slot.

Combine this ‘spread booking’ with customers who are booking in advance and forgetting, those with social anxiety or fears over coronavirus, and those who genuinely have something unexpected come up, and you’ve got a recipe for empty tables…

What can be done to reduce no-shows?

Send out reminders

It is more common now for diners to make reservations 5 days in advance, when they used to make them the same day or, at most, the day before. 

This shift could mean more people are simply forgetting about a booking, and a reminder closer to the time may make all the difference.

If something has come up for customers in the meantime, it should at least prompt them to let you know.

Make it easy for people to let you know if they can’t make it

45% don’t cancel because it’s not easy to find cancellation information.

If you can make it easy for people to let you know when they can’t make their reservation, then you at least have an opportunity to re-book the table.

Raise awareness of the impact no-shows have

Those who fail to turn up to restaurant bookings aren’t necessarily aware of the consequences.

You could try appealing to people’s better nature by letting them know, in a friendly manner, just what it means to your business when people don’t arrive for bookings.

You can talk about the people who may have missed out on dining at your restaurant, the employees who came in especially, or the food waste.

Create an official booking policy

No-one can dispute a booking policy.

It sets out terms and conditions, such as how long a table might be held for, and what to expect if customers are a no-show.

Take credit card details and charge fees to no-show customers

In a recent poll of UK restaurants, it was found that 42% were already taking and holding pre-paid deposits, to help insulate them against the cost of no-shows.

Genuine customers should be understanding of such an approach.  

Restaurant ticketing

Having a ‘set menu’ that diners pay for in advance is another way to ensure you don’t lose out.

If diners can’t attend in this scenario, it’s up to them to ‘sell on’ their ticket, as they might for a theatre production or concert.

Blacklist repeat offenders

Uber drivers and Airbnb hosts can rate their customers, and there’s a growing desire for restaurant owners to do the same with their customers.

A nation-wide approach hasn’t been fully established—yet—so in the meantime, it might be worth keeping a personal record of customers who have been no-shows…

Provide an exceptional customer experience to prevent future no-shows

When customers are confident of an exceptional experience, they are far less likely to drop you as an option.

Be the restaurant that builds a loyal fan base and rewards customer loyalty with incentives and touching gestures.

Will your future feature fewer no-shows?

You know your customers and location, and what will work best for you will be a matter of personal choice.

For 89.7% of Brits, going to a restaurant was what they missed the most during lockdown periods, so the hunger for eating out isn’t likely to diminish any time soon…

Here’s to full restaurants, with no empty tables.

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