How prepared are you to reduce no-shows during the festive period?

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On average, one in five diners fail to turn up for their reservations in big cities, with costs estimated to be around £16 billion a year to the pub and restaurant sector. What’s interesting to note, however, is that it is repeatedly reported that many consumers are not aware of the consequences of not showing up for a pre-booked table, and secondly have not considered it would be polite to notify the restaurant if they are unable to make the reservation.

But why are consumers failing or reluctant to cancel their table booking?

Recent research found the following:

  • 45% don’t cancel because finding cancellation information is difficult.
  • 27% don’t cancel because they can’t be bothered.
  • 18% don’t cancel because they have forgotten about their reservation.
  • 9% don’t cancel because they book multiple restaurants and decide to commit to a restaurant closer the time.

This is a huge problem in the hospitality industry and can have a huge and sometimes disastrous impact on your business as cited by Restaurant Mark Greenway last year on Big Hospitality online. 

Firstly, there is disappointment that the table has gone to waste when another customer may have been turned away due to table availability, resulting in you losing profit. Next, is the cumulative cost of potential overstaffing to the number of bookings and the food that has been prepared that has been ordered and prepared.

If no-shows are a re-occurring problem for your hospitality venue and you’re worried about the impact it will have this festive period, don’t panic! Here are four useful tactics that could help reduce your no-shows and boost profitability within your venue this festive period.

1. Do you have an official booking policy?

You may have a range of policies floating around that you would like your diners to comply with when dining at your venue. But you might not realise that you can set up an official festive booking policy for table reservations that lay out the terms and conditions of booking at your venue – specifically around Christmas and New Year. This list of terms and conditions that people must agree to before making a reservation means that your customers must stick to them, giving you more control over your table bookings. These terms and conditions could include the following:

  1. All the different channels on which bookings can be made e.g. through your booking widget on your website or your telephone booking system.
  2. Whether reservations are necessary, or walk-ins are acceptable.
  3. How far in advance a table reservation should be made.
  4. How long you are willing to wait before declaring a no-show (15 minutes is acceptable according to The National Restaurant Association of America).
  5. A cancellation fee (to be determined by you) applies if not enough notice is given

2. Do you take deposits for reservations?

In a recent study of UK restaurants, 42% were reported to be already taking or holding deposits as part of their booking policy to help tackle no-shows – in particular during Christmas Day and Valentine’s Day. And according to GO Technology, a quarter of consumers would like to be able to access online bookings with deposits.

Consider taking pre-paid deposits that can be redeemed at the time of paying the bill. This way, festive bookers are more willing to show up for their reservations and could end up spending more because they’ve already got what seems like money off.

Tip: Make sure your booking system is PCI (payment card industry) compliant, so your customers’ data is always processed correctly and securely. Zonal Bookings already ensures this!

3. Do you send out SMS reminders and emails?

After a reservation is made, sending an automated confirmation email or text can go a long way, as diners with smartphones can add these into their calendars, often reminding them of their pre-booking. Using an intelligent table reservations system such as Zonal Bookings, gives customers the flexibility to cancel their reservation via SMS allowing venues to free up their tables to be resold. With the average open rate for SMS being 82%, sending reminders 48 hours before a reservation can have a huge impact on minimising no-shows for those who are forgetful or want to make amendments to their booking.


4. Do you run waitlists for queuing diners to fill no-show table bookings?

There’s nothing worse than turning away diners waiting for a table because you’re fully booked, only for your pre-booked tables to no-show. This causes lost revenue, empty tables and unhappy customers, when those tables could have been occupied by your walk-ins. That’s why having the right table management solution such as Zonal Bookings for running a waitlist, with precise wait times for queuing customers could help reduce that lost revenue. Combined with your policy for cut-off times for no-shows, you could be filling your no-show tables in no time!

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