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Why it matters if you don’t show up for a restaurant you’ve booked
Every week my local restaurants in Bristol tweet that a table has become available that evening. You might say they’re the lucky ones - at least the customer has let them know though that’s scant consolation if the table is for more than two. Others simply fail to show up.
No shows have become the bane of restaurants’ lives, cutting already slender margins to the bone. Expensive ingredients go to waste. Regulars you’d like to fit in may be denied a table. One restaurant told me this morning that only a third of the people who had booked a table one evening turned up.
Since when did we become so careless of people’s livelihoods or frankly so selfish? People seem to feel they have the right to book a number of places then see what they feel like on the day. Without bothering to let the other restaurants know. Would they do that to a family member or a friend? To a work colleague they’d arranged to meet? Almost certainly not yet how long does it take to make a phone call? Seconds.
What can restaurants do about no shows?
What on earth can restaurants do? Charge beforehand like a theatre, cinema or sporting venue? Most hotels will charge you for a night’s accommodation if you cancel in 24 hours. Only a very small minority of highly regarded restaurants like The Clove Club in London and Casamia in Bristol do.
Even asking for a deposit appears to deter customers. One chef who tried it said his trade fell right off. Customers simply decided to eat elsewhere. What about collaborating with other local restaurants I asked him? “A few of us agreed to do it but I was the only one who gave it a try. Business was disastrous. I had to give it up after a couple of weeks”
Name and shame as The Cauldron in Bristol did yesterday? It might well be effective but restaurants still hesitate to do it in case the cancellation is genuine - and for fear of what damage sites like Tripadvisor can do if the disgruntled customer complains. Yes, everyone has to rush to hospital with a sick child at some point but at least get someone to call to say you can’t make it.
It’s up to all of us who value our local restaurants to try and help with this problem otherwise they’ll simply go out of business. And it’s the rest of us who end up paying in terms of higher meal costs that have to be factored in
So If you have to cancel give as much notice as possible, preferably a couple of days.
Don’t double or treble-book
If someone else has made the booking for you and you can’t make it, make sure they let the restaurant know. If they brag about having booked several restaurants make them aware just how damaging that is to a restaurateur's livelihood
Local restaurants band together to make people aware of the cost of not turning up and share a blacklist of repeat offenders. (I personally think you should name and shame but can understand why you hesitate.)
Local media, don’t automatically assume the customer is right - check the complaint is genuine. (Good to see the Bath Chronicle highlighting the problem today.) Tripadvisor (if anyone bothers to monitor Tripadvisor) why not be a little more careful about blatantly spiteful posts?
Local councils and business organisations - support your local restaurant sector by highlighting this problem
Let’s say #notonoshows
In the hour or so since I posted it there have been reports that no shows were a particular problem this Valentine's night. Top Bath restaurateur Gordon Jones said he had 47 people on his waiting list who he was unable to accommodate then had 4 customers fail to show up. Bar 44 in Cardiff had a worse experience still - it had 16 tables who didn't turn up
If you’re a restaurant have you had experience of no-shows and what have they cost you? Any thoughts about what the industry can do about it? One interesting idea that's come from the exchange of views on Twitter might be that customers who paid a deposit or, better still, the full cost up front (a possibly solution to V day no shows) might get a discount. Worth thinking about ...
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