To charge or not to charge…

No More No Shows To Charge or Not to Charge

To charge or not to charge…

That is the question. 

As if 2020 wasn’t cataclysmic enough for the hospitality business, tentative re-openings have once again shone an unforgiving light on that thorny issue of missed bookings. 

Restaurants are still seeing frequent ‘no shows’ across the country, despite repeated warnings of the powerful negative impact this has on livelihoods. 

Are there any easy answers? 

It’s worth prefacing these comments with a rider: no shows don’t affect all restaurants equally. 

As a rule- the better and fresher the produce, the more avoidable wastage is inflicted and the lower the resilience to missed bookings. 

Restaurants are clearly examining their options to find a fair and workable system, so we thought we’d pick their brains. And who better to ask than some of those affected by the biggest hospitality crisis the sector has ever seen, representing the kind of places particularly affected by this issue. 

In conversation are Antonio Simone, chef owner at Dinas Powys’ The Humble Onion; Sarah Watts-Jones, owner of The Hare & Hounds and The Heathcock; and Owen Morgan, of the Bar 44 Group.

Antonio: The industry at present is clearly in difficult times. Now, more than ever people have to comprehend how detrimental “no shows” can be. 

Sarah: Since reopening we’ve been taking a £10 per person deposit on every table. Because we’re working on 80/90% bookings only (we save a section of tables outside for walk in drinkers), we just can’t afford to have tables not show up. 

Owen: Up against Brexit, a coronavirus pandemic, the worst recession since World War 2 and continually rising overheads, “no shows” in UK restaurants will directly contribute to further unemployment. It’s that stark.

Antonio: Deposits are a great way to reserve spaces and I do believe if people don’t show up without notice, a small charge should be made. 

Sarah: It’s been working really well for us so far. If the weather is appalling, we understand cancellations, but we ring everyone and will move the deposit to another date. 

Owen: Often people are extremely bullish in their argument against it -(both deposits and charges for no shows) and it’s quite clear they don’t give it a second thought. No shows have become so common, with multiple empty tables in every venue every day, and they are literally crippling businesses. 

Sarah: We’ve been really lucky that the vast majority of our customers understand what uncertain times these are for us, and are very understanding about why the deposit is necessary. In all likelihood, we will continue working like this for the foreseeable future. 

Owen: We aren’t operating a deposit policy as such yet. We do however operate a strict no show for no good reason fee at £25 per person. This is clearly highlighted upon booking, credit card details are taken for all bookings without exception, and the confirmation email clearly states T&C’s regarding a no show. 

Antonio: That would perhaps cover a percentage of the costs of bringing extra staff cost for the evening. It’s never about profitability. 

Owen: We would never charge anyone who had a genuine reason to not show up. But 90% of the time a genuine customer with good values would ring or email in advance, which we have zero problem with. 

Sarah: We all understand emergencies happen – but any notice at all is great – as generally a lot of places have reserve lists; and they can fill that space.

As a follow up to this interview, we recently ran a poll among our newsletter subscribers and on Instagram to find out whether people would be willing to pay a deposit.  Overall, results demonstrated that 88% of respondents were prepared to pay a non-refundable deposit if they failed to cancel with less than 24 hours notice, 10% would prefer to leave credit card details and 2% would prefer to not pay a deposit or leave credit card details.

Would you be prepared to pay a deposit to secure your restaurant reservation? We would be grateful to hear your thoughts in the comments section.


4 thoughts on “To charge or not to charge…”
Mike Rees says:

This is a no brainer for me as I’ve been used to doing this for a number of years, however I can see how it can cause reticence for some. The sooner it becomes the ‘norm’ then it will prevent people booking multiple venues at the same time which enables them to decide where to eat just as they leave the house.

Editor says:

We agree Mike – the sooner it becomes the ‘norm’ the better. We’ve paid fully upfront for meals and in fact it makes it easier for budgeting. We understand the issues that businesses have and sometimes they feel like they’re in a no win situation, but without a deposit system of sorts, it will just keep happening and we’ll still be having this conversation in years to come.

Laura says:

I went to a restaurant last night, when booking the reservation, I was asked to supply bank details. If I didn’t attend they’d charge my card? Just a thought but could be a good way to avoid no shows.

Editor says:

Hi Laura – yes that’s certainly one of the other options restaurants use, especially with online booking systems that take those details. We’ve heard of some stories though including people providing fake details and cancelling their credit card to avoid paying if they don’t show up. Seriously, it’s just a nightmare for businesses!

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