No-shows – those reservations that never materialise into actual customers – are the bane of every pub and restaurant owner’s life. Accounting for anywhere between 5% and 20% of bookings, at best no-shows mean a re-organisation of tables during a busy service. At worst, they can cause a serious dent on a business’s bottom line.
The practice of potential customers booking tables and then simply not turning up to eat at them affects all areas of the industry – from high street pizzerias, to countryside gastropubs and destination restaurants – but thankfully there are ways to prevent it happening.
Here are our top tips for making restaurant reservation no shows a problem of the past.
1. Invest in an intuitive reservations system
Online restaurant reservation systems are often blamed for the rise in the number of restaurant no-shows, due to making the process so impersonal. Those booking a table online, rather than in-person or over the phone might forget there are people running a business whose livelihoods may be threatened if they don’t turn up when they said they would.
However, recent research shows that almost 40% of all restaurant bookings are made online and with that number only set to grow as technology becomes further engrained in our lives, restaurants and pubs need to embrace online reservations and ensure the system works for them.
If used to their full capabilities, online restaurant reservation systems can help build relationships with customers and boost engagement which has the opposite effect to making the process less personal.
Online restaurant reservation systems can play an integral role in the entire booking process, from collecting information and payment details to prompting further engagement to build up genuine excitement. For example, dressing a table with balloons and bunting for special occasions and pre-arranging a climactic spectacular show-stopping cake reveal.
With the right tools, a restaurant or pub can even allow customers to pre-order from a set-menu once they have got their reservation details. This not only helps the kitchen to better manage stock, but builds anticipation for the mouth-watering food the diner will be eating, which in turn helps cement that crucial relationship between reservation and restaurant.
2. Take credit card details or a deposit
One way to cement a reservation and remind customers that their booking is binding is by using a card authentication system at the point of booking, or by taking a deposit.
A card authentication system is a secure, mobile-friendly way to secure a reservation. There is a one-click redeem button to pull the authenticated money from the customer’s account into the operators for an unexplained ‘no-show’ or late cancellation.
A small deposit per person, taken off the total of a customers’ bill, or kept if the party doesn’t turn up is another deterrent. To avoid disgruntled customers, the best approach is to be upfront about why you have policies in place and how they ultimately benefit the booker and his or her guests. Always stress the benefits of online deposits or upfront card authentications, such as the customer securing his or her booking but also accessing pre-order online digital menus and detailed special requirements conversations.
3. Send friendly reminders
Good friendly communications are an integral part of the engagement process and will help with that ‘buy-in’ to your business before someone dines with you.
Sending cheerful reminder texts to customers, where they simply reply YES or NO to confirm their booking, is a friendly way of engaging with bookers and crucially reminds them that a) they have made the booking and b) you’re expecting them to turn up.
Similarly, a post-event ‘thank you for your custom’ text with a review prompt continues the engagement process. And if they leave an online review, thank them for it and say you’re looking forward to seeing them in the near future.
These are just small and simple steps your venue can take to tackle no-shows, and ensure that covers are maximised throughout the whole evening.