Restaurant Operations: Dealing With Reservation No-Shows

No shows can be a very frustrating issue for restaurant owners to deal with. A no show reservation can greatly affect a restaurant’s daily revenue. It’s more than turning away guests. Restaurant margins are thin and the unnecessary costs behind of a no-show can range from labor costs for overstaffing employees to food waste and costs.

The key to handling no shows? Being proactive. Here are 5 ways to deal with no show restaurant reservations:

Re-evaluate your reservation system to see where you can improve

Consider adding more confirmation steps, to ensure customers honor their reservations. Send an email using an online reservation system such as OpenTable that will automatically send a confirmation email. Opentable also has the ability to track guests who have no showed before; and in the case that they’ve done it multiple times (4 ) OpenTable suspends their account! On your end, you can call the customer on the day of their booking and remind them of their reservation.  This is also a great opportunity to personalize their experience by asking if it is a special celebration, or if the guests have dietary restrictions. In some cases, you may want to consider overbooking just to ensure that your tables are full.

Implement a clear cancellation policy

Make it easier to cancel, so that people are able to cancel by phone or online rather than simply not showing up. Use an online reservation service; allow customers to text to cancel; or make sure to always answer the phone in case a customer is calling to cancel. OpenTable sends email confirmations, reminder phone calls, and a reminder to cancel future reservations if the patron is a no show. If your cancellation policy is clear and easy, people who can’t make their reservation will be more likely to let you know instead of failing to show.

Require a deposit when making a reservation

Asking for a credit card number at the time of reservation can help lessen the likelihood of a no show. If people expect a potential charge for not cancelling, or cancelling late, they are more likely to honor their reservation. Requiring a deposit or charging for late cancellations can help deter no shows and encourage people to cancel in advance if they won’t be able to make it.

Take note of repeat offenders

Track your no shows to see if you have customers who commonly make reservations and forget to cancel. If a customer has a certain number of no shows on their records, you may not want to take reservations from them any more. After all, if they consistently reserve a table and then don’t show up, the reservation doesn’t really matter to them. Some reservation software will track no shows for you, and will terminate the users account if they are flagged with too many no shows.

Don’t publicly shame no shows

Customers may simply not understand the impact on the restaurant if they do not show up for their reservation. The #StopNoShow hashtag has been growing in popularity on Twitter with some elusive customers being named and shamed online by restaurants they’ve failed to eat at. While this probably isn’t the best approach, it’s easy to relate to their frustrations. Instead, communicate the importance of your reservation and cancellation policies on your own website or social media accounts.

In conclusion

As tempting as it can be to vent your frustrations about no shows, it might be a wiser choice to look at your reservation confirmation process and your cancellation policy. Send emails and a phone call reminder when customers make reservations, to ensure they don’t forget that you are holding a table for them. Communicate your cancellation policy, and consider taking a credit card number so that patrons take their reservation seriously. The use of an online reservation system such as OpenTable will automatically track no-shows and handle reminders for you. No shows can be a costly and infuriating issue; try implementing some of these steps, and hopefully lessen the number of no shows that your restaurant and staff have.