Restaurant no-shows: How uncertainty is making staffing even harder

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Guest blog by RotaCloud

It’s clear from Zonal’s no-show statistics that public behaviour has to change if our pubs and restaurants are ever to fully recover from the impacts of Brexit and Covid-19.

But customer no-shows aren’t only affecting restaurants’ bottom lines — they’re also having a serious impact on the lives of their employees, as well as making the already severe staffing crisis even worse.

According to RotaCloud research, in June this year, 85% of UK hospitality businesses were actively recruiting staff. Of these businesses, 77% said that they were having difficulty finding staff.

Pub and restaurant owners have been working hard to plug the holes in their workforces ever since covid restrictions were lifted. But the industry as a whole remains severely understaffed, and as we head towards the Christmas and New Year season there are concerns that we may see more closures as a result.

When a party fails to show up for the table that they’ve booked, logic dictates that it eats into that business’ profits. From the food prepared to the number of staff on the rota, there’s a plethora of costs that must be borne — and that can’t be recouped — should the day not go to plan.

But there’s also an enormous knock-on effect for staff, and the industry in general.

With fewer covers, and therefore less work for staff to do, managers are often left with a difficult decision to make: do they find busywork for their staff, or do they try to minimise their losses by asking staff if they’d be willing to go home early?

Neither of these outcomes are good.

In the first instance, the business takes the financial hit, paying their staff for the hours they were originally set to work, despite the fact that takings are down.

In the second, the business still suffers but employees also go home with less pay than they’d anticipated — something that few, if any, of us can afford to do right now.

As no-shows become more and more common, rota managers also begin to second-guess themselves. With one in seven bookings now expected not to show up, should managers continue to plan their staff rotas based on expected demand, or should they intentionally schedule fewer team members (and risk being overwhelmed if everyone does show up)? Should their staff, in turn, expect to be sent home early more often? When employees can no longer rely on the hours they’re given, and when pubs and restaurants risk going out of business simply by covering their labour costs, it’s hardly surprising that staff should be reluctant to hang around, instead seeking the routine and relative financial stability offered by roles in other industries.

During this incredibly difficult time, what our restaurants, pubs, and bars need is a boost. They need the work they do keeping staff and patrons safe while providing high levels of service to be rewarded, and for their staff to feel secure in their jobs, not left wondering whether they’ll have their shifts cut short or take home enough money to make ends meet.[Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]It’s vital that we — as food lovers, as bar-hoppers, as pub-goers — do our bit to help our hospitality businesses recover. And that starts with making no-shows a thing of the past.

Tips for managing hospitality staff in an uncertain climate  

  • Keep your team in the loop. The only thing worse than being asked to go home early is when you show up for a shift, only to find out you’re no longer needed. Put a system in place to ensure that staff are made aware of any changes to the schedule as quickly, and as far in advance, as possible, so that they have time to make alternate plans. Keep your team aware of the issues you’re facing and communicate with them regularly.
  • Build in time contingency plans. When customers don’t show, try to use the downtime for something else. Have a list of tasks on hand that can be worked through by your team during quieter periods. Alternatively, use this time for training and development, and upskilling or reskilling of staff.
  • Use labour forecasting tools. Labour forecasting tools — software that uses past revenue data to accurately predict future staffing needs — not only makes scheduling easier but reduces the chances of overspending on staffing, taking some of the pressure off your business in the event that a booking fails to turn up. Identifying any micro-trends from previous weeks or months of data could help to better predict future no-shows.



About RotaCloud

RotaCloud is a simple, fuss-free way to help businesses manage their staff. It cuts down on admin and helps busy managers schedule shifts, record employee time and attendance and keep track of things like sickness and annual leave. All the tools you need to make organising a team quick and easy, in one place. To try RotaCloud for free, just head to

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Join the conversation and help us make no-shows a thing of the past

No-shows cost the hospitality industry an estimated £17.59 billion in lost sales every year. Join our group of passionate industry supporters to help spread the message far and wide and encourage customers to #ShowUpForHospitality.

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