As a first-time restaurateur, one of the many firsts to prepare for is guests who don’t show up despite making reservations. It happens to every restaurant in the world, no exceptions.
If diners decide to ghost reservations at the very last minute, it greatly impacts restaurants and bars that are still trying to recuperate losses incurred during the past year’s pandemic.
It also hurts other diners who sincerely want to dine but are turned away because the tables are sitting empty, waiting for people who will never arrive.
- Kuala Lumpur: Joshua Ivanovic of Jungle Bird
Managing Director Joshua Ivanovic of Jungle Bird’s (Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2020) shared, “I can definitely say we experience at least a few no-shows every weekend. Anything from two to twenty people.
“It’s simply really frustrating, rude and inconsiderate. A simple phone call to let us know is always met with a sincere thank you from our side.”
- Singapore: LG Han of Labyrinth implements a cancellation policy
Chef-owner LG Han of one Michelin starred Labyrinth that showcases Singaporean flavours and culture, implemented a cancellation policy three years after opening his restaurant.
“In 2014 when we first started, I was a bit hesitant about it. People might not feel comfortable sharing their credit card details and we were still a new establishment.
“No-shows happened consistently every other week. There was once, on a Friday night – the busiest time of day for a restaurant, we had a 20 pax cancellation within 24 hours.
“We are a fine dining restaurant with a 30-seating capacity. It was a huge loss – food cost, table cost, preparation time, labour cost, we also hired part timers for peak periods, not to mention opportunity cost of the lost tables.
“In 2017, we were awarded our first one Michelin star and the demand grew. And then came a 70% no-show on one of the nights and I’d had enough.
“I would rather control my cost and serve customers who are serious about dining in our restaurant. We are not asking for much, we are just asking you to honour your reservation and we do our best to make you happy.”
- Bangkok: Choti Leenutaphong of Foodie Collection
For restaurateur Choti Leenutaphong, owner and founder of Foodie Collection, a notable F&B group of restaurants, shares, “We experience more last minute cancellations than no-shows.
“During the first year that I started business, one end-of-the month Friday dinner service, a guest booked for 10 pax and only four pax arrived.
“We ended up asking the guests for the seats back but that was two hours later, and we did have to deny some walk-ins and last minute bookings.
“Lesson learned: We must ask guests way in advance about their incomplete parties.”
Consequences of no-shows
No-shows do not only impact the bottom line but has a significant impact on team morale and the restaurant or bar atmosphere, which are two key drivers of any operating F&B business.
“There is a distinct drop in morale amongst the team when they’re geared up for a busy night with large party bookings.
“Often the team have prepped accordingly to make sure service is snappy and organised, and set-up the bar for large orders of cocktails, only to be let down.
“So, there’s a wastage aspect there. We also tend to stock up on fast moving items in advance if we expect big bookings and that’s extra money spent on holding stock,” said Ivanovic of Jungle Bird, Kuala Lumpur.
For Choti of Foodie Collection in Bangkok, the impact is similar. “It creates loss of sales opportunities where we could have given the table to walk-ins or last minute bookings.
“It’s just a pain sometimes to see something that can be avoidable. It also hurts our team’s morale somewhat since they were expecting a big table.”
There are so many negative consequences that diners may not be aware of. The F&B industry is very much an interpersonal industry. It is a vicious circle, if staff morale is low, the guests will not be treated with the best experience. Mental health and morale goes hand-in-hand.
However, not all high-end restaurants implement cancellation policies.
For Kuala Lumpur’s Platform Hospitality Group, which prides itself in modern concept dining and welcoming hospitality, Hui Ying, Director of Marketing explains, “At Entier currently, we do not hold credit cards or have any policy for no-shows. All these are practised in good faith, and of course we hope and ask that people reciprocate this by honouring their reservations.
“And we will continue to do this until no-shows happen too frequently. We have some terms and conditions put in place for bigger groups on a case-by-case basis.
“Post-MCO, many of our guests have been very supportive, they’ve given a lot of encouragement in more ways than we can imagine.”
Choti of Bangkok’s Foodie Collection also shares, “…for some reason, Post-Covid-19 lockdown sees less no-show than pre-Covid-19. Perhaps, guests are much more understanding of restaurants as a result.”
“It is never about the money. Some customers can be unreasonable, cancelling at the last minute. It doesn’t happen so often, but it does happen.
“Understanding and respect is a two-way street. We respect you as a diner and you need to respect that the restaurant has costs to cover as well.
“It’s the reason why restaurants have no choice but to have reservation rules at the end of the day,” says chef-owner LG Han.
This article first appeared on Set the Tables.
Set the Tables is positioned to inspire and educate those already in the industry as much as the aspiring reader who dreams of a future in the food business, and maybe even the merely curious tantalised by the vast and irresistible universe of food and drink.