The Restaurant Reservation Cancellation Epidemic

For a small, family-run, independent run restaurant, reservations are everything. Even a larger chain restaurant can be affected. Often times restaurants will limit seating time to 2 hours, sometimes even 1.5 if they are very popular and busy, and have to push away eager customers from coming due to all of their reservations. They very carefully book and arrange their table seating several days in advance.

No-shows are estimated to make up for 5 to 20 percent of the night, and with this, restaurants usually take a 10 percent no-show rate into account.  Why is it then that most restaurant’s don’t require payment details upon booking? Imposing fines on customers would be very likely to reduce the no-show rate.

Of course, sometimes things happen that are simply unavoidable, and there should not be an unreasonable no-show rate imposed, but people should know that not showing up or canceling at the last minute puts on a toll on the restaurant, and should take responsibility for it.  For small restaurants specifically it can go a long way and can even make or break them.

One east London restaurant does in fact have a cancellation policy. Tock has an online system which charges patrons for their orders upon booking a table. You can always add once you’re at the restaurant, but once you’ve booked, nothing can be changed.  Although a rather bold method, they are still among the world’s most successful restaurants.

Another restaurant, The Fat Duck located in Berkshire takes reservations very seriously as well.  When booking a table for their journey menu priced at a prepaid cost of £275-£325 a person that is non-refundable.

Ireland is also faced with this problem and has considered making a policy across the Restaurants Association of Ireland to take a non-refundable deposit on bookings. They have advised their members to take payment details from groups larger than four people, and to charge for no-shows anywhere between 24-48 hours.

Most people own a smartphone and are more than able to keep track of their schedule and of time. So what’s the reasoning for this overly common no-show behavior? Seems as though cancelling is a lot harder than booking nowadays.


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