British Michelin star chef Paul Ainsworth has hit out at restaurant no-show customers, claiming the practice is akin to the type of panic buying we saw at the beginning of the pandemic.
The chef and star of The Great British Menu, appeared on Good Morning Britain alongside Bake Off star Candice Brown and chef Allegra Benitah to debate the issue of no shows and whether restaurants should charge a non-refundable fee for bookings to ensure they don’t lose out.
Ainsworth’s restaurant was hit with 27 no shows last weekend, which his business, after emerging from the lockdown period and borrowing money to avoid redundancies can’t sustain.
He said: 'We just couldn't believe it, especially with all the awareness Tom Kerridge raised on the weekend.
'It had been a really positive start, lockdown had been really tough with the amount of money we borrowed so we didn't have to make redundancies. So to have 27 no- shows in one day was unbelievable.'
He added: 'I think it was like the beginning of lockdown, when we saw those scenes of panic buying.”
In today’s on-demand society of Netflix and Tinder, people have a misconception of the availability of infinite choice. Ghosting a restaurant on a reservation has no consequences for the customer and they probably don’t even give it a second thought, assuming the restaurant will find a way to fill the gap.
“I think when people knew they were going to be able to go out on July 4, it was the case of booking loads of tables and making sure they had somewhere to go out,” says Ainsworth.
Candice Brown, owner of The Green Man pub, charges a £10 deposit at lunch and a £20 deposit for evening bookings.
The pub’s capacity has reduced from 40 to 20 people, and criticised no-show customers as 'rude' and saying their behaviour is 'unacceptable'.
'We're in a tiny village pub we have to take out half our tables, she said. 'If we had 20 people not turn up, we would have no business. We fought hard to keep our business running.”
Ainsworth feels that he has no other choice but to charge a deposit for bookings.
“We've had credit card details for eight years, we take the number and all that,” he said. “But what's happening now is people are cancelling their card.”
'I want it to be free and easy, I don't want to book a deposit, and to take money from them straight away isn't something I want to do - but we're being backed into a corner.
“The majority of people will pay a deposit and say ‘How can people not turn up?’ and I do believe this is still a minority, but if we're not careful it will end up ruining it for everyone.”
The restaurant industry has been hit hard be a trend of no-shows, with a campaign recently launched in the UK to get the #NoMoreNoShows trending.
In Ireland, Michelin Star chef JP McMahon also joined the ranks of restaurateurs slapping a deposit. McMahon’s restaurant tweeted that from now on a credit card will be required to book in his restautaurants Tartare and Cava in Galway after a party of 15 cancelled late on Saturday evening. The tweet received a lot of positive feedback from both customers and industry professionals, suggesting that the practice would be widely accepted were it to be broadly implemented.