Despite the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions UK restaurants are facing a growing threat from ‘no-shows’ in an environment where consumer spending on hospitality remains at less than 70% of pre-pandemic levels, says Jaipal Yadav, managing director of restaurant software business, Favouritetable.
He explains: “Despite the repeated pleas of owners, thousands of diners still cancel reservations at the last minute, or fail to turn up without bothering to let venues know.
“This practice happens at most restaurants and now accounts for between 5-20 percent of bookings, costing UK restaurants £16-18 billion annually by some estimations.
“By comparison our data shows restaurants experience a 3-5 percent cancellation or no-show rate when people book online because they include their telephone number and email address, meaning they are far more committed to turning up.”
Yadav adds that attractive and intuitive websites, excellent customer-service and convenience are all crucial in the battle for fully-booked tables. He continues: “Restaurateurs can effectively reduce or remove no shows from the balance sheet by sticking to the following top tips:
- Take deposits
A sure-fire way to reduce no-shows is to request a non-refundable deposit when booking. This can be done online or by phone and diners genuinely intending to arrive won’t mind paying.
- Full payment on booking
Going one step further some restaurants now require full advance payment. Clearly this can get complicated beyond ordering a set menu, but there are technologies available that enable this.
- Foster remorse
Reaching out and inviting no shows to re-book is actually a great way to capture trade, eventually. Some no shows suffer ‘remorse’ and feel guilty so an invitation coupled with concern regarding their missed booking can foster and encourage their custom.
- Honesty sells
Social media is a great way of giving customers a glimpse of the challenges facing restaurant owners. No-shows often don’t understand the impact of their behaviour on the sector. Without naming names restaurateurs can gently share their pain on websites, Facebook and Twitter.
- Innovative tech
In our post-pandemic environment tech-savvy consumers now expect to be able to book online and even order food digitally from their table. Investing in modern reservation software that’s speedy, efficient and accurate beats pen and paper.
Yadav concludes: “Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the majority of customers are great, it’s a minority who potentially ruin the prospects of restaurants.
“There is a fine balance to be struck between heavy-handed policies that alienate customers and creating a convenient and welcoming setting. However, with no-shows clearly here to stay, then so must deposits and pre-payments.”