250 no shows on the first weekend of outdoor trading. That’s the sad outcome one pub has reported, and they’re only one of many. Pre-booking is now an essential part of the eating out experience. With those and customers reserving at multiple venues comes a high rate of no shows, customers simply not turning up for a variety of reasons.
This, of course, means turning down other customers who weren’t able to secure a table. No shows cost the industry up to £16bn each year, which is further exacerbated by the pandemic.
4 Ways to Combat No Shows
The good news is, there are ways to reduce no shows in your venue. Your customers’ plans may change but they don’t have to affect your business.
1. Raise Awareness
Make customers aware of the damage no shows create, using your socials, email marketing and your website. Implement a “honour your reservation or cancel in advance” culture. Also, offer different ways for your customers to cancel their bookings so that if they have to cancel, they can do so easily.
In addition, amend your policy and release booked tables after 15 minutes if they turn into a no show.
Many bookings are made in advance. So besides from sending your regular booking confirmation via email & SMS, you should also send a reminder 24-48h before.
Be clever here and use this as a way to scale up your customer experience and ask if they have any additional requirements or wishes. And, of course leave them the option to cancel if necessary.
Probably the most straightforward solution, ask for a deposit. For many years especially smaller, independent businesses have hesitated to do so. The fear being that it might impact bookings and discourage customers.
But circumstances have changed and so has your customers’ attitude. According to recent research by HGEM, 63% of customers are happy to pay a deposit to secure a table at their favourite venue. Asking for credit card details is also an option to reduce no shows.
4. For Outdoor
Outdoor trading is highly weather dependent, which can be an additional reason for customers not to show up. Weather can’t be changed, but the way you deal with it certainly can.
Many businesses already provide umbrellas and blankets for their tables. Take it one step further. Check the weather forecast. Is rain coming up? Use your reminder message to offer customers an alternative. “Instead of not showing up or cancelling, make use of our takeout and/or delivery and simply enjoy our food in the comfort of your own home.”
Best Practice from the Industry
The industry has reacted with several campaigns running on social media and businesses have joined forces to fight and reduce no shows.
Bonus Tip: Double-Check Your Automations
You’ve probably set up an automation for your confirmation and reminder messages. Make sure that they’re all running flawlessly.
- Content still up-to-date? – i.e. include new policy
- Preview and test send
- Displayed fine on multiple devices?
- Check everything is working on a regular basis