More and more, restaurant owners are having to deal with the phenomenon of “no-shows.” No-shows refer to when customers fail to honour their restaurant reservations, without giving notice or taking the time to cancel. For restaurateurs, this is more than just an inconvenience; it’s an organizational hassle, causing a major dip in turnover, not to mention food waste.
So, what’s a restaurant owner to do to? Check out our seven tips on how to reduce or eliminate no-shows in the restaurant industry.
1. Send your client reservation reminders
To prepare for and cut down on no-shows, you need to figure out what causes them. More often than not, no-shows do not stem from maliciousness. Rather, clients get busy and simply forget. There’s a lot to keep track of these days, and the average mental load means that people can’t always keep their schedules straight. Everyone makes mistakes and it’s only natural that your clients can’t always remember a reservation they made at an optimistic moment weeks ago when youth and vigour prevailed.
To avoid disappointment for all involved, we recommend that you give your customers a leg up—send out a reminder to your customers, stating the date and time of their reservation. Either texts or emails are a perfect way to make sure your clients don’t miss out an excellent meal and dining experience. Studies show that with online booking solutions featuring a call-back system, companies report 25% fewer no-shows for online reservations. Emails and texts can be set up either the day before the reservation, or the day of, or both. That said, avoid sending more than two reminders, as this can irritate your clients.
Along with your reminder, it’s a good idea to include a link where the client can cancel, just in case. This way, you can prepare for your guests or in case of cancellation, free up the table for someone else. Many clients feel shy about cancelling, possibly explaining why we’ve entered this new era of ghosting and no-shows. But with one-click cancellation, clients don’t even have to call the restaurant or talk to anyone. You’re making it so much easier and painless.
If built-in reminders sound like a dream, Linkeo can set you up with our online solution, Deliver by Linkeo. This tool integrates a long list of helpful features, designed to make life easier for restaurant owners. Perks include online table reservations, fewer no-shows, Click & Collect, and more.
2. Require your clients to leave a deposit. (But not if you live in Quebec.)
Depending on where you live, you might be able to use an online reservation tool to request a deposit. This means that to confirm their reservation, clients need to provide their credit card and banking information and prepay for their meal.
Obviously, this will incentivize clients to show up, since they will have already committed with their payment. Unless they cancel within 48 hours (or a set time), deposits offer an effective anti no-show strategy. BUT no-show fees are not legal everywhere. In the province of Quebec, it is against the law to charge a no-show fee when customers fail to show up for dinner. In most other countries, it is an option as long as the terms are clearly stated when the client books. And of course, you are free to give away their table once it’s clear the client is not coming.
Unfortunately, deposits do not cover all profits that are lost due to no-shows. And if you can’t fill the table, you may end up wasting food. But at least it’s something. For restaurateurs in Quebec, you are allowed to require a deposit for large groups to protect a portion of your profits.
3. Take down credit card info and charge cancellation fees
As with deposits, there are some legal issues to consider, but a cancellation fee offers a more radical strategy to make sure your customers show up to their reservation. Once you have your client’s credit card information, if they do not honour their booking, you can go ahead and charge them a cancellation fee. However, this is not an option in the province of Quebec.
For other locations in Canada and around the world, more and more restaurants are starting to use credit card info and cancellation policies to encourage customers to show up when they say they will.
4. Ask customers to reconfirm their reservations
A reconfirmation asks your customer to officially commit to their reservation the day before or day of. You can ask them to confirm via text, email, or a phone call.
This way, the restaurateur gets a clear vision of their dining-room plan, anticipating potentially vacant tables. If you don’t get a response from the client, you can cancel their reservation and free up space for the people on your waiting list. This helps you avoid lost turnover.
And at the same time, it creates a link between you and your clients—bonus.
5. Reassign the table in case of significant lateness
To limit the impact of no-shows at your restaurants, you can also reassign reserved tables if the party is unreasonably late. We recommend that you set the grace period beyond 15 minutes since it is pretty common for people to arrive 5-10 minutes late and this isn’t the same as a no-show. Set a limit that feels fair to you: 10, 20, 30, or even 35 minutes.
Beyond the set limit, the client who still hasn’t shown up will lose their table and the reservation will automatically be cancelled. At this point, you can go ahead and reassign the table to someone else.
With this rule, you’ll want to proceed with caution and make sure you set clear parameters with your clients in advance. Either on your reservation platform, confirmation message or both, put it in writing that in case of significant lateness, all reservations will be cancelled so no one can say they didn’t know about your policy.
6. Blacklist clients who keep ghosting
With repeated no-shows and the losses that come with them, some restaurant owners have made the bold decision to blacklist those guilty of serial no-shows. Serial no-show peeps are those who have disregarded their reservations time and again.
Online reservation solutions like Deliver by Linkeo keep track of your customer data, making it possible to automatically flag clients who don’t make it to your restaurant. It’s up to you to decide how many chances a customer gets before you blacklist them. Is it a one-strike-you’re-out situation or can clients redeem themselves the second or third try? You’ll have to assess your tolerance for the rollercoaster of no-shows. We suggest that you don’t get too ruthless. Mistakes happen and most people deserve two or three chances before they get blacklisted.
Instead of a blacklist, you can also implement a reminder system that signals to you that this client has the habit of not showing up. In this case, once you notice they’re late and probably not coming, you can promptly reassign their table.
Blacklisting clients who do not honour their reservations will prevent people from taking advantage of you. That said, you don’t want to take things too far. This technique is a little extreme and may affect your business’s reputation.
7. Set up last-minute promos
Let’s say you’re faced with a no-show or an extremely late customer. Let that hot feeling subside. Instead of mourning the loss, you can re-advertise the table as “available” and offer some exciting discounts.
This can help you to optimize your filling rate. It’s great for last-minute cancellations and no-shows. Pick a discount that will get your customers out of the house, while making sure it’s still profitable for you.
To sum up…
The no-show phenomenon has real costs for restaurant owners and the food industry. Beyond food waste and staffing issues, it can even cause restaurant closures when it happens too often. To prevent this worst-case scenario, it’s important to anticipate the possibility that not all your customers are going to show up. But online solutions like Deliver by Linkeo can help protect your business, reducing absenteeism while lightening admin tasks that take you away from what you love most. With a more manageable daily grind, you can focus on your favourite part of life as a restaurant owner.
Web agencies like Linkeo are here to help you make the most of what the Internet has to offer.
For the latest in online solutions for restaurants, check out our article, What you need on your menu: Click here!