No more empty tables in 2024: Proven strategies to minimize restaurant no-shows

Here are some effective strategies to reduce no-shows and boost your restaurant's revenue. Find out actionable tips on managing reservations and educating diners about the impact of their cancellations.



May 15, 2024 - 3 min read

No more empty tables in 2024: Proven strategies to minimize restaurant no-shows

A study says the growing trend of canceling last minute or simply not turning up at a restaurant, costs restaurant owners an average of £89 (US dollars 111) per customer.

Restaurant booking cancellations lead to revenue losses and pose the risk of turning away walk-in guests, resulting in missed sales opportunities. Moreover, in anticipation of guests honoring their reservations, restaurants buy premium ingredients and devote hours to meticulous food preparation. However, when guests fail to turn up or even have a courtesy call, restaurants suffer significant losses.

The impact of a no-show reverberates throughout the restaurant, affecting not only the bottom line but also the morale of the entire staff, from the bustling kitchen crew toiling away in the hot kitchen to the dedicated management team. However, amidst this challenge lie strategic solutions. Here’s a look at strategies restaurants can employ to reduce restaurant no-shows.

1. Stop empty seats: Securing a deposit from customers

Restaurant owners can significantly reduce no-shows by requiring guests to make a small deposit when making a restaurant reservation. This is especially advantageous when managing group dining bookings or during high peak season. The key lies in asking for the right deposit amount – enough to encourage attendance without deterring potential customers. Additionally, developing a tactically devised refund policy is essential. For instance, offering a full refund for cancellations made 24 hours in advance, a 25% cancellation fee 3 hours before booking, and retaining the full deposit subsequently ensures fairness for both parties. This policy discourages impulsive cancellations and helps restaurants recoup some of the costs.

2. Ensuring commitment to reduce no-shows: Customer credit card authorization and prepayment

Restaurants can request guests' credit card information upon reservation. Additionally, establishing a clear cancellation policy allows guests to cancel without charge within a specified timeframe. In the event of a late cancellation or no-show, the restaurant can charge a nominal fee, as long as this is stipulated in the cancellation policy.

3. Empowering guests: The power of timely reservation reminders

Sending reminders to guests about their upcoming reservations can significantly reduce no-shows. It's not uncommon for guests to forget about their reservations amidst their busy schedules and a timely email from the establishment will remind them about their dinner reservations. Moreover, these gentle nudges convey the restaurant's commitment to its reservation system, reassuring guests that their table is secured and eagerly awaits their arrival. Booking platforms like TableCheck can send automated reservation reminders by email or SMS, ensuring seamless communication with guests and less load for the restaurant.

Booking reminder from TableCheck

4. Eyeing guest satisfaction: Pre-booking preset menus and flexible refund policies

Asking customers to pay for preset menus in advance provides a layer of security against no-shows and last-minute cancellations. Imagine discarding tureens of food that took hours to make, not to forget the expense of the exotic ingredients that were hard to source in the first place. However, the advance payment should not deter guests from dining at the restaurant. To encourage bookings, restaurants can incorporate a flexible refund policy. For example, if a restaurant typically orders ingredients and begins preparations 24 hours before a reservation, they can offer a full refund for cancellations made more than 24 hours in advance. Moreover, restaurant reservation strategies like pre-payment for set experiences grant restaurants greater control over supply costs, contributing to improved budget planning and operational efficiency.

5. Booking flexibility: Providing cancellation and rescheduling options

Allowing guests to modify or cancel their reservations helps restaurants to sidestep cancellations.  When restaurants call, email, or text clients to remind them about their reservations, they could also offer an option to cancel or reschedule. This will minimize no-shows and the heavy costs attached to it.

6. Never lose a customer: Using a waitlist system to offset losses from no-shows

Collecting contact information from walk-in patrons and promptly notifying them in the event of a no-show can minimize losses. It also demonstrates a commitment to exceptional service, even to those who arrive without reservations. Solutions like TableCheck's Waitlist Management allow guests to relax at the bar or lounge and notify them via email or SMS when their seat is ready. By utilizing such technology, restaurants can create positive experiences for their guests and earn good reviews.

7. Capturing the solo dining market: Fill empty seats with solo diners

Prepping the restaurant to host solo diners is a great way to combat no-shows. When guests don't show up for their reservations, they leave empty tables which can easily be filled up by solo diners. Solo guests are easier to seat than large groups making it easy for restaurants to recuperate their losses when cancellations occur.

8. Educating diners on the impact of no-shows to their favorite restaurants

While restaurants and bars bear the full brunt of no-shows and last-minute cancellations, many diners remain unaware of the significant financial and emotional toll they exact on these establishments. To bridge this gap in understanding, it's crucial to educate diners about the true cost of a no-show. Restaurants can take proactive steps to raise awareness among their patrons. Leveraging platforms such as social media or newsletters, establishments can share insights into the challenges posed by no-shows and the ripple effects on operations and morale. Moreover, reaching out beyond their immediate audience, restaurants can contribute to broader awareness efforts by penning articles for newspapers or online portals thereby creating a sense of accountability in the public in general.

9. Beyond the empty table: Tracking and managing repeat offenders

Another way to safeguard themselves is to keep track of patrons who have canceled on multiple occasions. Restaurants can expect similar behavior to happen again and not hold their reservation for more than a few minutes. They can also call these repeat offenders a few hours before their reservation to check if they plan to honor the reservation.

No-shows and last-minute cancellations can be financially and emotionally draining for restaurants. With TableCheck's array of features like waitlist solutions and reservation reminders, restaurants can reduce no-shows and protect themselves from losses.

Read this article in Japanese.

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