Using technology tools to control your no-shows

By BigHospitality

- Last updated on GMT

Using technology tools to control your no-shows
No-shows and late cancellations are the bane of a restaurateur's life. But they needn't be.

“That booking of five are a no-show.” For most restaurateurs, those words will send chills down their spine. They’re probably heard at least once daily, along with the realisation that the table could have been filled with some advance warning. In an industry where 35 of the top 100 restaurant groups in the UK are unprofitable, and operators are working harder and harder to make their businesses a success, it’s a hot topic that shows no signs of disappearing. (Unlike that table of five.)

In February 2018, 12% of bookings at Glasgow’s Porter and Rye were no-shows or late cancellations. Based in trendy Finnieston, people like to splash out at this upmarket steakhouse. With an average spend per head of £50, this potentially cost them almost £12,000 in just one month…..It’s why they, and their sister restaurant, The Finnieston, are starting to take credit card details for most of their reservations.

James Kemp, Brand and Marketing Manager for the venues’ parent company, Kained Holdings, sees this action as a great opportunity for the business. “We started analysing our no-shows and the figures were shocking,” he says. “We’ve decided to use ResDiary to store card details to gain back some control. While we are in the service industry and want to give our guests a great experience, there is the caveat that we’re still a business."

“If we stop no-shows, everyone is happy; people who really want a table can get one, and we’re not losing money on busy nights.”

In contrast, Peter Kinsella, owner of Liverpool and Manchester-based Lunya restaurants, has had no large party no-shows in the last six months. Even better, all booking cancellations have been done at least 24 hours in advance. “For us, it’s about using all the tools available to us through ResDiary. We make it easy for people to book, we store card details, we take full payments for special events, we send them reminders, and we make cancellations simple through that reminder text. For the sake of a few pence for an SMS, it’s a lot cheaper than a no-show.”

Like Lunya, the Viva Brazil restaurant group are rarely troubled with no-shows. This was not always the case though: their Cardiff venue had real problems with the issue during Christmas 2016. When they started using ResDiary, they didn’t take any form of payment protection for the first three months and had 46 parties fail to honour their bookings.

In the following three months, those numbers fell by 69%, with just 14 bookings not turning up. Due to their success with this, they decided to both store card details for most parties, and take deposits for larger groups for Christmas 2017. This combination worked so well in securing their revenue, that they had just three bookings fail to turn up throughout the whole of December.


Although many venues have had clear success with these methods, taking payments is not without its pitfalls. Without clear customer communications, operators can find that withholding deposits, or charging for a missed booking can be a real bone of contention. That’s why it’s important to use your all the tools in your booking system to get the basics right. It means that customers are aware of why and when they will be charged, and you have the opportunity to stop no-shows before they happen:

Be clear about your cancellation policy
A clear cancellation policy is essential. Make sure your customers are aware of their cancellation window, and the penalties incurred for a late arrival, late cancellation, or a no-show. You can add these to your ResDiary microsite, widget, and confirmation emails, giving your customers every opportunity to familiarise themselves with your policy.
Mutual confirmation
Make it part of your service to give a clear, prompt confirmation email or SMS to your customer. These can be totally customised to your branding, style, and tone, within ResDiary, helping eradicate mistakes on booking dates or times, and discouraging restaurant no shows.

Call to confirm
While not always possible, a call to confirm a reservation is generally appreciated. As an added benefit you can log this in your ResDiary account as a telephone confirmation, or an attempt to contact the guest.

Make it easy to cancel
While this sounds counterproductive, the more notice about a cancellation you encourage, the more likely you are to re-sell their table. Your online reservations page can be set up to let customers cancel or edit their reservation. The customer will receive an updated confirmation or cancellation notice, and you’ll know in advance of a free table for the evening. Reminder emails and texts can be sent to guests, in your specified timeframe, with a link to allow them to cancel.
Repeat offenders
Sometimes regardless of your efforts, certain people will just fail to turn up. If the same customer does this repeatedly, you have the option in ResDiary to block them so they can’t reserve your venue online. In 2017, ResDiary alone processed almost three times more online bookings than in 2014. And that trend is continuing in 2018. As more consumers expect to be able to book online, acceptance of reservation technology, including payments, is growing. Venues that embrace market changes and emerging tech will have better opportunities to get more reservations and curb no-shows, with less effort and manpower.With ResDiary, market-leading payment and customer contact technology can stop no-shows and create a great relationship with your customers. And all provided with no booking commission.

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Related topics: Bookings systems

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