Dealing with no-shows in your restaurant

Dealing with no-shows in your restaurant
Erin Heenan By: Erin Heenan 4 Minute Read  |  May 3, 2018
Dealing with no-shows in your restaurant Restaurants > Customer Service

No-shows might be an age-old industry standard but frustrated restaurateurs are starting to speak out.


Customers failing to turn up to pre-arranged bookings cost the sector a shocking £16bn in 2015. No-shows are a trend that’s continued to grow. Three-quarters of the UK’s restaurants are independent. That’s a lot of money coming out of small businesses’ back pockets.


No-shows could, and sadly does, see businesses close their doors for the final time. This careless consumer behaviour is threatening the diversity of our high streets. Challenging the status quo is dangerous in such a customer-led sector, but with independents and chains affected alike, it’s in everyone’s best interest to stop no-shows in their tracks.


In the wake of the recent #StopNoShows movement, we’re looking at methods some restaurants have used to limit no-shows in their business.



If we’re going on the assumption the majority of no-shows are made up of courteous, but forgetful people, reminders are a good antidote to that. Stay present in your customers’ minds with an email confirmation, phone call or utilise an online booking system that does it for you.


If you don’t have an automated booking system, get your staff to give customers a call during the day when it’s quiet. This is a great opportunity to add to the customer experience by acknowledging any dietary requirements or special requests.



The #StopNoShows movement seems to be picking up speed and it’s rolling in this direction. Deposited bookings are on the rise, especially in places like London. They are however getting a mixed reaction from hospitality professionals. Some restaurateurs fear putting diners off altogether. Other believe asking for a deposit will only deter visitors who have a loose intention of turning up.


For those of a forgetful nature, there is the added benefit the threat of being charged will keep the booking fresh in their mind. Penalising customers for not honouring their agreements is nothing new, with almost every hotel requesting a deposit prior to booking. So why not restaurants? Some mid-priced restaurants and those outside of big cities have expressed a discomfort in asking for money upfront believing it’s hard to justify the cost to their customers.


Name and shame

While this might be the most appealing way to handle no-shows in the heat of the moment, it can have disastrous consequences. There are incidences where humorous responses to negative reviews and social media rants have been well received, but publicly calling out no-show perpetrators is a risky business!


A Cardiff restaurant, ironically named Bully’s, took to Twitter to share the personal details of a customer who had failed to turn up to their booking. After issuing an apology they seemingly backtracked by liking a tweet that referred to the customer as a ‘selfish cow’. The story, which was shared in the Daily Mail, received a mixed reaction from readers, some of whom had sympathy for the customer. Some agreed with the business owner. If you ever find yourself in this territory, be warned; you could be in breach of data protection legislation and/or risk a backlash that could permanently damage your business’ reputation.

The last word

Restaurants shares no-shows as a costly and common frustration. It’s part and parcel of working in the industry but it seems change is afoot. The #StopNoShows movement is starting a dialogue with restaurants and their customers. It recognises no-shows as a nationwide issue that is severely damaging to our food and drinks sector.

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Erin Heenan Erin Heenan

Erin has been writing articles to help hospitality businesses perform at their best since 2016. Her past as a serial waitress and love of eating out means the restaurant sector holds a special place in her heart. Read more blogs from Erin Heenan 》