Restaurant no-show bookings are accepted as par for the course in the hospitality industry. Plans often change at short notice and sometimes customers forget to let restaurants know.
However, whether deliberate or a mistake, not turning up to reservations is having a huge impact on the hospitality sector. According to restaurant reservation provider ResDiary, the rate of no-shows is between 5-20%, depending on the restaurant. This could mean a growing loss of £4-16 billion every year.
At a time when restaurants are struggling to survive in a pandemic, no-shows have become more frequent and could even prove fatal to some businesses. Celebrity chef Tom Kerridge spoke out in 2020 when 27 customers booked at Kerridge’s Bar and Grill no-showed in one night. He warned of the disastrous effects it has – so if even famous chefs are concerned, small restaurants really need to act to minimise impact.
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How to reduce no-shows at your restaurant
Save payment information
It’s become so easy to make a restaurant booking online, it also makes the prospect of no-showing that much easier. One effective deterrent is to save the card details of the person booking. When they book, you can ensure they know that should they fail to give at least 24 hours’ cancellation notice, they will be charged a set amount for missing their reservation – £25 per head, for example. The booker should be more likely to show up – or let you know if they can’t make it – once you add in the idea that a no-show will effectively result in throwing money away.
Ask for a deposit
You could go even further down this route and insist on a deposit when a booking is made. Although some people may be put off by paying upfront, you could remind them the deposit will be deducted from their final bill. If a table of five is booked and you ask for a £25 deposit per table, that’s roughly the first drink for each guest already paid for. They’ll only lose out if they don’t give notice they can no longer attend their booking.
Many restaurant owners worry such tactics may put guests off. If this is a concern, you may want to test the waters and see if demand holds up. Why not consider bringing this rule in at weekends only, or for larger group bookings?
You may even find some guests would prefer to pre-order and pay in full before attending. It saves time waiting for food to arrive and can skip the chance of tricky conversations about sharing the bill when it’s brought to the table at the end of the night.
Using either the ResDiary or OpenTable integration with Square for Restaurants POS not only lets your customers book online, you can also set up an option that lets them pre-order and pre-pay for their food. This can greatly reduce the chance of no-shows and offers a helping hand to smaller restaurants in difficult times.
Send digital reminders
If you’re still unsure about no-show fees, or asking for deposits, it’s understandable – especially if you’re just starting out.
If so, consider sending text reminders out to those who have booked. Both the ResDiary and OpenTable integration enables SMS messages to be delivered. Make these texts friendly and approachable. A gentle reminder won’t hurt and well crafted, positive messaging could even help build loyalty to your business.
Make cancellation simple
Sometimes, customers fail to cancel reservations because they think it might be complicated and they don’t have time. If you make the process as simple as possible, they’ll be more likely to do so and save you potential no-show headaches.
Reservation software such as OpenTable can allow diners to cancel through a link on their confirmation email. Make sure to include all your contact details on follow-up communications with guests too, and let them know that you can be contacted easily via email, phone and social media.
How to manage no shows
Usually, restaurant owners feel there’s nothing they can do when somebody no-shows. However, why not try and turn it into another chance to get those customers back? After all, sometimes life gets in the way and people simply can’t attend at the last minute.
Thanks to online reservation systems, you can check which bookings didn’t show up and get in touch. Then, set up automated emails with light-hearted messages like ‘Sorry you didn’t make it for dinner – we missed you!’. For a more personal touch, consider phoning the no-show.
Advertise last-minute availability
Often, people don’t make plans until late in the day, but thanks to COVID-19 precautions, table numbers have been reduced in many restaurants and pubs, making it harder to be spontaneous.
If you have a no-show, take advantage of customer relationship management (CRM) software and your social media channels to advertise that you have a last-minute table free that can be booked, or alert would-be customers that you suddenly have space for walk-ins. You can quickly turn a problem into an opportunity, and also create demand for your business.
No-shows might be inevitable in the restaurant industry, but with a solid strategy, you can work to reduce and manage them. . A multi-strand approach, using a combination of the ideas in our guide, may be the best way to combat no-shows.
Square for Restaurants POS helps you turn your small business into an efficient, well-oiled machine.
By integrating with ResDiary or OpenTable, guests can place orders and pay for them via Square too. This enables you to focus on the important stuff, like serving up brilliant food and giving customers an experience to remember.