I was discussing this next topic with a customer over the weekend, it’s something that is causing much heartache and many a sleepless night to restaurateurs all over the world.
No shows. There seems to be an epidemic them, not just last minute cancelations, sudden illnesses, supposed cancelled trains, but more often than not it is a case of people just not turning up, without any warning what so ever.
All over the country, chefs and managers alike are dealing with this issue, and unfortunately it’s snowballing. So much so that it is, and has, caused some serious damage to a number of businesses. Especially us little independents.
Us restaurateurs , we’re human too, we all appreciate that in certain circumstances a cancelation is necessary. We all have been in an unfortunate situation and have had to cancel a prior engagement. We understand genuine emergencies do happen, we’re not dinosaurs (well a few of us are but thats another story for another time). With a days notice, even half an hours notice on a day like mother’s day we can adapt and squeeze in one of the people we have had to turn away. With no notice it simply leaves a bitter tase in our mouths.
For a third of a restaurants bookings to not show up, not to ring and cancel but to simply not show up, aside from an outbreak of the plague (or similar) you have to wonder, and assume it is more than just a coincidence.
I’ll tell you what is happening, and it has been admitted to many a time anecdotally in jest by the imbeciles who are doing this, people are making 3 or 4 bookings, they are then deciding at the last minute which to go to, that’s just not cricket.
Would you make 4 hair appointments then decide which hairdresser to go to?
Would you make 3 GP appointments and then decide which doctors to go to?
So why is different when deciding to make an appointment, with a restaurant, someones livelihood then simply not turn up?
It isn’t different. Certain people just don’t perceive the value of the restaurant industry ( a service industry) alongside that of other service and hospitality industries. Why are we seen as 2nd class citizens in comparison to the rest of the world?
We all have been tarred with the same brush, that brush being the chain restaurant, the private equity backed, faceless, soulless, margin orientated multinational corporation. It hurts, I don’t want to be classed along side them, we are anything but one of them. The no show epidemic is causing serious issues in the restaurant world. When we take bookings on days such as mothers day we are making plans, we are anticipating and trusting that you will turn up.
I read a tweet earlier today citing that a third of a restaurants bookings were no shows, on what is one of, if not, the busiest days of the year for many establishments, a third of their bookings, in this case 46 people didn’t turn up.
In your line of work if a third of your sales, a third of your customers, just decided to not follow through with their order or the like, how would you feel? What would happen to you? How would your superiors hold you to account? You don’t think like that when making your 4th restaurant booking for next satuday night do you.
(I’m sorry, I’m grouping you all together here but at the moment there is more steam coming out of my ears writing this, than what was being produced by the pasta boiler at 7pm yesterday evening. You will have to forgive my brashness.)
Let’s do some basic maths, on the cautious side if these 43 people had spent £30 a head, that would have equated to £1290, realistically though it would be closer to £50 if not more, that then sends the figure up to £2150. Now consider what that amount of revenue would have been utilised for, not only would it immediately affect a businesses cash flow but depending on their situation it could have been significantly more damaging.
But it’s only a restaurant, who cares, right?
We care, I care, you should care. We employ 30+ people, thats people with families, mortgages, bills to pay, mouths to feed and lives to live. If you hurt us, you hurt them. Now, I’m not blackmailing you to frequent our restaurant, you should want to do that of your own accord like the other 300 people that came yesterday, what I am guilt tripping you about is make a plan, giving us your word and sticking to it, just like any other normal human would.
Now it a third of our customers hadn’t turned up today, I wouldn’t be sat typing this now, I would now be sat staring into the bottom of a very large glass (bottle) of wine (scotch). Today we were fully booked for 3 sittings through the day, thats 3 sittings of around 100 people, we are in the suburbs with no passing trade, we are a destination, now if a third were to cancel, that is the kind of loss that you cant recoup. That is the kind of loss that will impact your bottom line. That is the kind of loss that will do some damage.
Now I hear many of you saying, just take deposits, as simple as that sounds, we only do that on new years eve, it’s just not worth the hassle the rest of the year. Having to have that slightly awkward conversation with a customer getting their credit card number and asking for £10 per head puts people off, people take it quite personally, they think you don’t trust them, and in all honesty that is the state of affairs their fellow diners have reduced us to. It is hard enough getting a phone number out of people so we can confirm bigger tables. Even when we do that, periodically we are given a fake one and the party of 10 who haven’t turned up are un contactable and the number doesn’t work. Taking deposits from the customers point of view is understandable in London but not in Yorkshire. Yorkshire folk wont have that.
Unfortunately people have the mindset that a restaurant won’t miss a table of two, and most of the time we take it on the chin and deal with it, the issue comes when the other 4 couples who thought the same no show, and suddenly you’ve got 20% fewer people than anticipated and as a result more staff than you need, more food prepped than is required, less revenue and higher outgoings, all as a result of taking someones word as a guarantee.
Someones word unfortunately is no longer worth the paper it is written on.
All we are asking is that you stick to your word.