The restaurant no show problem
Here are some way your restaurant can reduce the amount no shows.
1. Forgo reservations
2. Implement a ticketing system
When Dimmi spoke to Hospitality Magazine they pointed out that in most other service industries payment is required in advance. Why shouldn't restaurants be the same?
The system works similar to a cinema. You pay upfront for a set menu and then drinks are paid for on the night.
Some restaurants have even began to experiment with time-of-day pricing. Customers willing to eat earlier or later in the evening pay less than those wanting a table during the restaurants busy period. The advantage of this is that you even out demand across the day and during the week. You also know ahead of time how many diners you are expecting and can organise staffing arrangements accordingly.
The disadvantage though is that very few restaurants currently use this system and diners could baulk at having to pay for their meal upfront and decide on a competitor who doesn't require this.
3. Ask for a deposit
This method doesn't need to apply to all diners. Some restaurants only require commitment from large parties of say 6 or more. Others will decide not to charge a fee when the cancelled reservation can be filled by another party.
The advantage of the deposit system is that as well as reducing no shows it can improve profit margins, especially if the cancelled booking can be replaced by another diner.
The disadvantage though is that charging the fee is often easier said than done. If the fee is particular high, as it is with some fine-dining establishments, then diners can cancel their credit cards, block the restaurant from taking a fee or have insufficient funds for the payment to be processed.
It appears though that the threat of charging a fee is enough to discourage diners and reduce the number of no shows.
4. Confirm Bookings
SMS technology linked to a POS system is not the only option. Using email and the phone can be just as effective.
One of the keys is to make it easy for diners to cancel their booking. If you implement a technology friendly solution then reservations can be cancelled when it's most convenient for the diner. It makes it easier for diners to do the right thing and can give you the chance to replace the booking.
5. Have a policy
For example what is your reservation policy, do you charge a no show fee? What criteria must be met for this fee to be charged?
How long will you hold a table before it's given away? Most restaurants will hold a table for 15 minutes before seating another diner. If the guests calls to notify they will be late then some restaurants will hold the table longer.
How will you keep tack of diners that are no-shows? Often your online dining application or POS system will be able to record this data. Will you decide to ban diners who are consistent no-shows?
If you're going to have a no show policy then be sure to fulfil your end of the bargain. Most guests do turn up and they expect to be seated promptly.