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Number of restaurant booking no-shows doubles

The number of consumers not showing up for reservations at restaurants, pubs and bars in the UK has doubled since September 2022, the latest research from Zonal and CGA by NIQ has revealed.

The research found that at present, approximately 12% of consumers do not honour their bookings, and do not notify the venue of their cancellation in advance. It found that these customers not turning up costs a huge £17.59 billion in lost revenue, not accounting for the additional cost of wasted food and staff.

CGA by NIQ’s Client director Andy Dean suggested that the trend is indicative of a shifting attitude among consumers: “While customers might think missing a reservation is only a minor inconvenience for the venue and staff, the wider connotations need to be emphasised to customers so they appreciate the need to show up for hospitality, support the industry and the workers within it.” Exactly why this shift has occurred is not clear.

In a bid to educate no show customers on what this habit can mean for struggling hospitality businesses, the #ShowUpForHospitality campaign was launched in September 2021. However, though the rate dropped from 14% to 6%, the current 12% figure suggests that greater awareness might not be enough.

The issue of how to tackle this problem is a tricky one. Sven-Hanson Brit, chef and founder of the now shut Oxeye in Nine Elms, suggested that bigger deposits deterred people from not showing up, but, crucially, did not deter them from making a booking in the first place.

However, Tom Fahey, the restaurateur behind the Isle of Wight’s The Terrace, told db that deposits can cause some restaurants more trouble than it’s worth: “At The Terrace in Yarmouth we have basically given up on it. I’d say we get about 2% no shows, but the trouble of taking deposits and then arguing about refunds with customers we don’t want to alienate is far greater than just sucking it up. We even cut down how much information we provide on booking about confirmations & cancelations after one of the main restaurant guides gave us direct feedback that it felt ‘controlling’!”

“In Ventnor at The Terrace Rooms & Wine we cook for a maximum of 14 people who all eat together around a single table,” Fahey continued. “No shows or cancelations here are far more damaging not just to our income but also to atmosphere – 8 is borderline enough not to make the evening feel awkward but really you need 10-12. Six is very stilted. We charge 50% of food cost to book which is non-refundable a week in advance. Of course anyone who does cancel without fair notice argues with us that it’s beyond their control and asks to have the deposit off set against future visits thus missing the entire point of us charging it in the first place.”

Fahey also pointed out that not all hospitality businesses will be equally negatively affected by customers not turning up: “No shows in big restaurants can be swallowed up by walk ins but this doesn’t help change customer perceptions that no showing up is in any way wrong. For smaller places it is a business closer, but until the whole industry makes deposits normal they will never be widely accepted or seen as fair.”

Fahey also spoke with db recently about whether bad TripAdvisor reviews really can shut restaurants down.

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