Restaurant 'no-shows' continue to damage sector as chefs attempt to combat problem

Chefs including Tom Kerridge and Paul Ainsworth have pleaded with the general public to do better

Updated on 22 July 2020 • Written By Rosie Conroy

Restaurant 'no-shows' continue to damage sector as chefs attempt to combat problem

Restaurants across the UK are facing a battle against 'no-shows', as the number of people not turning up for bookings continues to be a problem post-lockdown.

In what is already a difficult period of time for the industry, chefs are imploring the public to call ahead if they can't make their reservation, and to stop double booking restaurants when only planning to use one of the bookings. This is so that they can attempt to fill all their tables or at least alter their staff rota if needs be, to avoid eating away at their profit.

This comes after Michelin star chef Tom Kerridge recently took to social media to voice his concerns that this wave of no-show diners post lockdown is putting hospitality jobs at risk.

Kerridge – who runs four restaurants including The Hand & Flowers, which holds two Michelin stars – said 27 people failed to show up for bookings at his eponymous site Kerridge’s Bar & Grill at the Corinthia London hotel on a Saturday night. In his heated post he branded the behaviour of would-be customers as “disgraceful” and “selfish”.

Addressing patrons who didn’t fulfil their bookings, Kerridge said “To the 27 people that booked @kerridgesbandg and then failed to turn up on a Saturday night..... This industry, like many others is on the verge of collapse.”

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He continued to air his concerns surrounding restaurants’ return to financial stability post Coronavirus, criticising the behaviour of consumers. “Your behaviour is disgraceful, shortsighted and down right unhelpful....all of you “no shows” in all restaurants up and down the country are adding to the issues already being faced.... YOU are putting peoples jobs more at risk..... [sic],” he said.

Explaining the logistical impact of the position restaurants are facing with tables left empty on historically peak nights, the chef continued by saying, “[We] put staff levels to the number of covers booked and when you fail to turn up, it now costs us, which in turn will force very uncomfortable and hard decisions about staffing levels. You are the worst kind of guest, and that is “selfish”. I hope you have good look at yourselves...[sic]”

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Tom Kerridge (@cheftomkerridge) on

Other chefs were quick to add their messages of support, with Simon Rimmer agreeing in the comments that the actions of potential guests were “disgraceful”, while Jason Atherton urged Kerridge to “name and shame”, saying “every restaurant should block these people”.

This pattern isn’t unique to Kerridge’s eateries either, with other restaurants expressing similar concerns surrounding no shows. Westerns Laundry – a modern British seafood restaurant in Highbury – posted a message of the same ilk on its Instagram page, saying, “In normal times [these] table[s] would be difficult enough to fill at such short notice and we would rely on last minute walk ins to do this, which we don’t allow at the moment for logistical & safety reasons. Under the current conditions, it’s virtually impossible to make up for the loss of revenue.”

The ramifications of this include restaurants being forced to charge customers higher fees if they don't arrive for their booked table. In Westerns Laundry’s case, it has increased the charge from £10 per head to £50 per head for no shows, which will cover the lost revenue. Explaining its position further, the restaurant’s post continued, “A no show of 4 typically costs the restaurant around £240. We had 12 no shows last night in just one restaurant. Not only does this equate to 1/4 of our revenue gone for the evening it also denies other potential guests a chance to dine with us instead of the no-show.”

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Westerns Laundry (@westernslaundry) on

Here too the restaurant found support from fellow industry professionals. Chef Josh Katz (who runs Berber & Q in London) compared the issue to what would happen in another area of the leisure industry, commenting on the post, “If you miss your theatre performance you don’t get your ticket refunded, but with restaurants, which have far fewer seats, it’s a totally different set of expectations.”

Meanwhile Paul Ainsworth, owner of Michelin-starred Cornwall restaurant Paul Ainsworth at No.6, also took to Instagram saying that he recently had 27 people not show up in one day alone at one of his restaurants in Rock.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Paul Ainsworth (@paulainsw6rth) on

He told ITV: "The reality is the rota is written, the team are on for that shift. Can you imagine 27 people?" Putting the size of the problem into perspective, he continued, "It’s been a problem before Covid but now restaurants are fighting for survival. If people don’t understand that and don’t respect that then that is going to give us serious problems."

Last week, Manchester hospitality consultancy firm Sixty Eight People launched a new campaign #NoMoreNoShows to raise awareness of the issue and ask the public to do better.

The solution – it seems – is a simple one. If diners aren’t going to be able to make their booking, letting the restaurant known will ensure they’re able to fill their tables with paying customers. While plans will always change and a degree of flexibility will have to be allowed, having the conversation with the restaurant ensures they have the best possible chance of filling an otherwise empty table, ultimately giving the industry the best possible chance of survival in a challenging climate.

Excited to eat in restaurants again post lockdown? You might like the news of the government’s ‘eat out to help out’ scheme which gives customers 50% off restaurant bills in August.