Research and reports
No-shows continue to be a problem for the hospitality industry, with one in seven (14 per cent) consumers not fulfilling their bookings, according to CGA’s latest Consumer Pulse Survey.
CGA researched the behaviour of people returning to pubs, bars, and restaurants in England since reopening in April. While this data applies to al fresco dining only, previous estimates for the UK industry as a whole suggest 20 per cent of bookings result in no-shows, costing businesses thousands of pounds a year.
With restaurants and pubs operating at reduced capacity to accommodate social distancing, it’s never been more important for customers to show up for their bookings. While this may sound like something you can’t control, here are a few things you can do to tackle this worrying trend.
Customers agree to this when they book, so make sure it includes any details of cancellation fees and how long you’ll wait before giving away a table.
You might also want to consider how far ahead people can book, and if you want to keep some tables back for walk-in customers. For example, if you want to keep a more casual environment and you’re in a populated area, you may be able to get away with not taking reservations at all.
The Consumer Pulse survey shows 23 per cent of no-shows forgot to cancel, while 13 per cent couldn't be bothered. Using a booking system that sends automatic email and SMS reminders to customers means there’s no excuse for people missing their reservation.
There are plenty of systems out there depending on your budget and what features you need. Resy offers a waitlist option, for example, while OpenTable includes reputation management.
Our guide to the best booking systems explores some of the key players in the restaurant world.
It’s also a good idea to make your email reminders feel more personal by including your business logo and branding – it’ll remind your customers that there’s a face behind the booking system and help increase loyalty.
According to research from Carbon Free Dining, 45 per cent of people don’t cancel their booking because it’s not easy to find cancellation information. So make sure your website, booking system, and reminders all include clear details on how customers can cancel a booking if their plans change.
Taking credit card details or a deposit when customers make a booking is becoming more common, with a recent industry poll showing 42 per cent of restaurants are doing this in the UK.
If your policy says they’ll be charged a fee for last-minute cancellations, it can discourage a causal attitude to bookings. It’s simple to manage and creates an extra incentive for customers to show up, or let you know well in advance if they can’t make it.
How you market your business is up to you, but you should carefully consider whether offers or discounts are likely to damage your brand or help grow your customer base.
Offering special loyalty deals can feel more personal for rewarding long-term customers, but if you’re left needing to fill a last-minute booking then social media promotions may be a good tactic.
On the topic of no-show appointments, one of our customers at Woodlands Hair and Beauty in Kent said: “Late cancellations are always disappointing. When you see all of our girls booked up, it's a buzz. It’s always gutting when someone cancels late as it means we have to try and fill that gap. To do this we put special offers out on our social media to try and entice someone to book last minute.”
How do you manage no-shows? Let us know in the comments.
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Catriona Smith is a content and marketing professional with 12 years’ experience across the financial services, higher education, and insurance sectors. She’s also a trained NCTJ Gold Standard journalist. As a Senior Copywriter at Simply Business, Catriona has in-depth knowledge of small business concerns and specialises in tax, marketing, and business operations. Catriona lives in the seaside city of Brighton where she’s also a freelance yoga teacher.
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