The strangest reasons why people cancel pub, bar and restaurant bookings

In the world of hospitality, cancellations are an inevitable part of business – but it’s not always for the expected reasons.

Research from Zonal, looking into booking trends across the UK, has revealed 10 of the strangest reasons people provided for needing to cancel a reservation, including:

  1. “Seagull problems”
  2. “I wanted to ruin my fiancé’s birthday”
  3. “Sorry! Changed our minds after having breakfast!”
  4. “My sister wants to eat at home”
  5. “Na”
  6. “My friend has an unexpected council meeting”
  7. “My kids don’t care”
  8. “Went into labour”
  9. “Still in the queue for the London eye”
  10. “My date cancelled on me last minute”

Aside from these more unusual reasons, analysis of the data shows that over half (52%) of cancellations occur due to customers making a mistake on the original reservation. For example, over a third of this group said they had booked the wrong time, date, or venue. Other issues included the group size or dropouts (17%) or being double booked (9%).

The next most common reason for cancellation given was ‘illness’, with 19% of people mentioning this. While 12% said that a change of plans meant that they were unable to turn up to their booking. Nearly a quarter of people didn’t provide any reason for their cancellation – however that is still better than those who don’t cancel their bookings at all and simply don’t turn up.

These are called ‘no-shows’ and, according to a survey conducted by Zonal in partnership with CGA by NIQ earlier this year, the behaviour is on the rise – doubling since September last year. In fact, 12% of consumers are no-shows, which costs the sector £17.59bn per year in lost revenue and even more once wasted food and staff costs are taken into account.

Commenting on the findings, Olivia Fitzgerald, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Zonal, said: “Although some of these cancellation reasons are funny, the issue of no-shows is no laughing matter for the industry. With the most common cancellation reason revealing itself as customers making a mistake with their booking, it’s really important for venues to put solutions in place to prevent this. Making it easy for people to amend their booking or sending timely reminders to customers, are just some of the ways operators can help minimise booking mistakes and in turn, decrease the likelihood of no-shows, which are so damaging to an operator’s bottom line.”

Zonal launched its #ShowUpForHospitality campaign in 2021, in order to help spread the message far and wide and educate consumers about the damage of no-shows on the sector. Visit the campaign page to find out more and join the conversation.

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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.

Learn about the campaign

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