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No-shows are damaging restaurants across the UK

The hospitality sector is experiencing huge losses as customers don't turn up for reservations.

The pandemic feels to many like it really is coming to an end in the UK, with a successful vaccine-rollout programme and plans already underway for 30 million top-up jabs ahead of a potential winter wave. All of this has led to the restrictions being almost entirely eased off, and people are now able to return to work, school, and home.

But UK restaurants and pubs – those that survived the lockdowns – are facing a new struggle, one that has always been present but is biting deeper as the hospitality industry struggles to get back on its feet: no-shows.

According to hospitality technology firm Zonal, as many as one in seven customers who book a table fail to turn up. The impact on businesses’ earnings is magnified when potential customers who try to get an unreserved space are turned away, in an attempt to save empty tables for those people who never show up.

One example is the Liverpool restaurant Bacaro, which experienced no-shows as soon as it reopened in April this year.

There is also the added issue of those people who make multiple bookings at different establishments, and then decide which one they will go to without cancelling the others. The losses add up to as much as £16 billion a year.

A demographic breakdown of these no-showers provide useful insights. Younger people make up the single biggest part of this phenomenon, with 18–34 year-olds likely to make a reservation, not turning up, and not cancelling either. As many as a quarter of the bookings by this group are not honoured.

This is a serious issue that should be considered by anyone thinking of buying a restaurant business, especially an independent one. Despite London being the worst area for no-shows, with a rate as high as 24%, the problem is widespread with a national average of 14%.

It’s also worth noting that the smaller your venue, then the bigger the impact one cancellation can have on takings. Staff rotas, for example, must be worked out in advance, so no-shows will hit you in terms of increasing your costs with wages or purchasing stock that could potentially go to waste.

The hospitality sector is highly competitive, and has had to deal with the economic struggles from the pandemic. Now, no-shows add further pressure. However, there are strategies that business owners in the food industry can implement. Think about ways you can counter no-shows, such as reminding people about their booking, or to call if they wish to cancel. Another tactic is to take a non-refundable deposit so ensure some profit is made.

Luckily, problems always come with solutions, and as the world becomes increasingly digitised, these solutions are technologically innovative. Restaurants that don’t have the resources or time to implement the strategies mentioned above can consider using, a call centre dedicated to the restaurant industry.

Sasha Roberts

About the author

Sasha Roberts is a copywriter for Dynamis, writing for their Franchises & Businesses For Sale section.


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