As of 1 March, the 42-cover restaurant will take debit or credit card details for all bookings, with a £30 fee for lunch and £50 for dinner for any tables that don’t turn up on the day. The new policy is a result of the huge number of cancellations and no shows the restaurant now has to deal with, which chef-patron Mark Greenaway describes as “simply unsustainable for our small restaurant”.
Writing on Facebook, Greenaway said this was something that the restaurant had been considering for a while. “As an independent restaurant we feel the time has come that we can’t simply ignore what is going on in the industry... we feel we now need to act to put an end to this lunacy of customers booking tables and simply just not turning up,” he wrote.
The restaurant does already have a policy in place to confirm all tables of all sizes every day, but this hasn’t reduced no shows, says Greenaway, who says in September last year he had 22 customers no show in one night.
The decision to finally introduce a no show fee came when Greenaway began looking back through his booking history and discovered that in December last year the restaurant received 399 cancellations and 51 no shows. While he says that he has no problem with cancellations, provided that guests give the restaurant enough notice, the number of no shows is too high.
“I am fine with cancellations, things happen, plans change, but we want to get rid of no shows. If people are aware that they will be charged then they will honour their booking. If they have booked a table of four and only two can make it, they might be able to find two more friends to come along.”
Greenaway says he will be flexible, and will often not charge a fee if fewer people turn up than have booked. “We wouldn’t charge for two less people, we still want to encourage people to come to the restaurant. We just want to stop people not turning up at all.”
The chef believes the new policy will have “a positive effect” in that it will make people think more carefully before they make a booking. “They might not book as soon as they click through [on the website] but check with their partner first. But then we will know that if we have 30 or 42 people booked we will do those number of covers and we can cut our cloth accordingly, by either staffing up or cutting back.
Late cancellations and no shows continue to be a thorn in the side of the industry, with many restaurants regularly facing problems with customers not turning up. This week Picture restaurant in Marylebone had to take to social media with a 50% off food offer to try and fill its restaurant after a private hire cancelled the day before the event.
The restaurant said it was the second time that this had happened.
Earlier this month Tommy Banks, chef-patron at The Black Swan at Oldstead, tweeted that customers had threatened to post bad reviews unless the restaurant let them off its cancellation policy. “As an industry how do we deal with this? I think we should never back down to what appears to be blackmail,” he posted on Twitter.
Greenaway acknowledges his restaurant it by no means the first to introduce a no show fee but believes that more will need to follow suit in order to change people’s attitudes to restaurant bookings. “If you book a football match, or a concert, or a comedy show and don’t show up you forfeit your ticket, why should eating at a restaurant be any different?”