In recent months, restaurant no-shows have become a burgeoning issue as operators are tightening margins and beginning to realise just how much financial damage fickle diners are causing.
- First, there was our podcast, which detailed the rise of restaurant no-shows and exploring the different ways restaurateurs are currently working around the issue.
- Then came our report which showed a number of high-end restaurateurs and industry experts condemning the use of online reservation systems, claiming booking websites are contributing to a growing number of people booking tables and not showing up.
- The debate was then reignited once more by Noma’s René Redzepi, who told BigHospitality that it is still a ‘mega problem’ for the industry, and that diners should ‘respect a restaurant reservation like a trip to the dentist.'
And so to Bookingrid. The new marketing system aims to help restaurants balance supply and demand between busy and quitter periods, using an airline-style pricing model which it claims will increase restaurant revenues and combat no-shows once and for all.
“Initially there was no intention to help restaurants,” said Sergey Dugaev, founder of bookingrid.com. “I did it for my friends and myself; when my friends and family travelled with me, we often didn’t plan where to dine in advance.
“It was virtually impossible to go to many restaurants because such places were always fully booked. So I was thinking if there could be a solution and bookingrid.com is my answer.”
How it works...
For restaurants using Bookingrid, diners will pre-pay when they make a reservation and the system will debit money from the debit or credit card. If a customer cannot make the reservation then the restaurant will still receive money. In order to protect the customer from the fact that they may not genuinely be able to make the booking, the system allows the individual to re-sell their booking on the platform.
If and when restaurants are oversubscribed, Bookingrid ensures that the guests are those with money to spend; and during potentially quiet periods, the system ensures a through-flow of new and regular business, to keep the kitchen busy and the bills flowing.
Anna Ostroumova, Bookingrid’s head of marketing for the UK, said: “We are so used to the airline demand-led pricing structure, whereby your tickets are so much cheaper in advance and much more expensive closer to the date of travel.
“No one ever questions the fairness of this system and it feel as though this system has been around forever, where in actual fact it is only about 25 years old. Before that, all ticket prices were flat and now prices are fluctuate based on seating availability and timeliness, and so we developed bookingrid.com.
“I‘m often prepared to pay a little bit extra if it means that I get to go a restaurant that I really like, or would really like to try and I don’t have to book months in advance. There are plenty of people out there whom are willing to spend good money to enjoy great food, drink and service, so why not allow them to do that whilst helping restaurants do better themselves?”
Restaurants using Bookingrid
Italian restaurant Maurizio’s is already marketing itself using the website and Bookingrid claims to have had many meetings with other restaurants including Quilon, Pied à Terre, Rasoi and Cinnamon Club & Kitchen - all of whom have expressed a keen interest in using the system.
David Moore, founder of Michelin-starred restaurants Pied à Terre and L’Autre Pied, said: “I find the bookingrid.com concept very interesting and exciting, and look forward to embrasing it. I think it will work very well for my two restaurants, helping us to improve revenue cash flow and margins through its clever booking mechanism."
Peter Harden of the Hardens restaurant guide added: “Variable pricing seems certain to alter the restaurant marketplace, and will bring great benefits to restaurateurs in allowing them to manage demand in their restaurants. bookingrid.com has brought a huge amount of innovation in its approach and we are delighted to be trialling their system on our site.”
To summarise, bookingrid.com works through a combination of:
- A demand-led pricing morel which eliminates no-shows, increases the number of high-spenders and boosts receipts during traditionally quitter periods
- Extensive, active marketing campaigns and guide listings
- Bespoke, web-based software
No more no-shows?
So, could this be an end to restaurant no-shows? Well, as Will Holland, chef-patron of La Becasse in Ludlow, concluded in our podcast earlier in the year: “When I book a flight, I know that I have to pay full in advance and if I miss my flight then I lose my money.
“If that principle becomes the norm for the public; if they don’t turn up to a table reservation, then they’ve lost their money, then I don’t think there would be any problem.”
With the restaurant and airline industries already sharing similarities in the time and day-specific levels of demand they have and the limited number of revenue-earning seats they offer, Bookingrid could finally be the innovation that restaurants have been waiting for to stop operating on a first-come, first-serve basis and begin taking full control of their revenues.