Points of View

Restaurant Owner: No-Shows Are Killing My Business

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Restaurant Owner: No-Shows Are Killing My Business
Photo Michela Simoncini

It seems obvious that not showing up for a reservation, especially at a small restaurant, can have a massive impact on said business. Yet it still happens every night in restaurants all over the world. Why is this? How do restaurant owners cope when running a restaurant is hard enough?

In this instalment of Munchies’ Restaurant Confessionals series, an anonymous British restaurant owner very diplomatically explains that diners just don’t realise the effect they’re having and puts the blame firmly on a culture of option booking, whereby people make multiple bookings for different restaurants for the same sitting.

“In a restaurant the size of mine, our margins are so tight that even if I get a table of four that doesn’t turn up, the best I can hope for is to break even,” says the restaurant owner. “To know you’re just one of somebody’s options – a faceless building that could crumble – kills me. People don’t understand the knock-on effect they’re having on the restaurant ... [they] aren’t being malicious, they just don’t get it.”


The restaurant owner goes on to list some of the terrible excuses given for no-shows, the kind of things you might say to a teacher when you haven’t completed your homework: “I’ve had people mid-excuse about the babysitter’s dog being ill, cover the phone with their hand and ordering food because they’re sat somewhere else, and then continue to give me the spiel about the dog.”

Deposits the norm?

So, what’s the solution? Calling to confirm is still no guarantee. Taking deposits as the norm, suggests, as the restaurant owner points out that “you’re suspicious before a customer is even through the door. It makes it look like we don’t care, which can’t be further from the truth.”

Read the piece in full here. All in all, it’s pretty heartbreaking stuff, especially as some (or many?) of us can probably recall a time when we’ve been guilty of doing it.

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