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No more no-shows in gastronomy!

By: Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Among other things, what the pandemic has done the restaurant industry is evident from the number of no-shows recorded: Restaurateurs have seen a five-fold increase in reservations that are simply not honored. Now they are defending themselves through a wide variety of means.

Suddenly, your child is sick. Or the babysitter. It’s been snowing so much you no longer want to go out. Or maybe the dog ate your doctoral dissertation which was the reason for celebrating in the first place. There are plenty of reasons why you might not be able to take a seat at the table you reserved in the end. However, it is more difficult to explain why you don’t just cancel the reservation. After all, it’s a matter of common courtesy. But not just that. All it takes is a quick phone call or a simple click to save restaurant owners unnecessary staffing and food planning costs. But only if this is done in good time.

 empty restaurant due to no-shows

Image: Phil Crozier

No-shows as a no-go

Of course, no-shows – in other words, guests that reserve but don’t show up without bothering to cancel – are not really a new phenomenon. However, it seems to be increasingly common to do so. Following the reopening of restaurants after the Corona lockdowns, the number of “restaurant absentees” began to steadily rise. That is one of the findings of a Swiss study, which concludes that the number of no-shows has increased fivefold since April 2021.

As a result, a growing number of restaurateurs feel compelled to take action, and consciously fight back. And not just in Switzerland. Michelin-starred chef Grant Achatz from Chicago, for example, no longer accepts reservations, but instead sells tickets to his restaurant Next. Similar to concerts, football matches or theater events, these must be paid for in advance. Other restaurant owners send reminder e-mails or text messages and charge fines for not honoring a reservation to reduce the number of no-shows. Still others allocate time slots and ask their guests to leave credit card details so that a certain fixed amount can be deducted if they don’t show up.


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Ein Beitrag geteilt von Grant Achatz (@grant_achatz)

Double damage due to no-shows

Like Nick Suche. He, too, is struggling with no-shows, especially since corona. The Canadian is the founder and owner of the Syndicate Hospitality Group (SHG). These include the Shelter Cocktail Bar, the Orchard restaurant and Fortuna’s Row in Calgary. “During the pandemic, guests became accustomed to not being able to go out for dinner or having to cancel reservations at short notice. Although we have resumed normal operations for some time, this tendency still haunts us.”

How much is lost due to no-shows is difficult to gauge, he says. The fact is, however, that costs add up over time and guests who don’t cancel their reservations make it increasingly difficult to use staff and merchandise efficiently. “Having to turn away guests because of no-shows also costs money – in both the short and long term. On the one hand because the table is left empty and on the other because we had to send some people back home. As a result, fewer and fewer people come by spontaneously to see whether a table is still free.”


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Ein Beitrag geteilt von Fortuna’s Row (@fortunas.row)

His approach: Guests of the Orchard and Fortuna’s Row must make a deposit of ten dollars per person when making a reservation. If you show up, you’ll get your money back; if you don’t show up, they’ll keep it. “This enabled us to reduce the number of no-shows from five to six percent to 0.5 percent or even less,” says Nick Suche happily. What’s more, the majority of guests are understanding about this move. Only a small percentage express their displeasure through negative reviews, e-mails, phone calls or even face-to-face.

(No) case for the court

But one thing is certain: In Canada, it’s still relatively easy to get away with a no-show. In other countries, restaurateurs sometimes charge juicy fines for not showing up. This was also the case at Amelia in San Sebastián, Spain. When three guests did not show up in summer 2021 without canceling, 510 euros were deducted from their account. The restaurant website says that the fine is 298 euros per person. One of the guests went to court because he thought it was a mistake. After all, he informed the hotel, which is located in the same building as the restaurant, and mistakenly assumed that the restaurant would be informed. Nevertheless, ruling was in favor of the restaurateur and the guest did not get his money back.


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