7 Strategies to Reduce Restaurant No-Shows

No-shows are one of the biggest recurring challenges for restaurants. When a diner fails to show up for their reservation, they are considered a no-show. In bigger cities, no-show rates are reported to be as high as 20%, causing a headache for many restaurateurs.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into how to deal with restaurant no-shows. Our partner restaurants have shared their tried and tested strategies with us – read on to get started yourself.

Why your restaurant needs to tackle no-shows

The restaurant industry typically operates with low profit margins, so every reservation counts to prevent lost revenue. Another challenge is predicting inventory – you risk throwing away food you've prepared at the end of service.

High no-show rates can also disrupt work shifts as well as the flow of diners. During peak hours this can put extra pressure on your waiting staff: Rearranging tables and accommodating walk-ins takes their focus away from your other diners.

7 strategies to reduce no-show rates 

Effectively dealing with no-shows often involves tackling the issue from several angles at once. Try some of our 7 recommended strategies:

1. Make cancellations easy. Ensure that diners know how and when to contact you if they want to cancel. Online reservation systems ease the process, as diners can cancel with just a few clicks. In any case, make sure that your contact details are easy to find online.

Smartphone with an app notification from Quandoo saying ‘Please confirm your reservation at Ristorante Q‘

2. Use confirmation emails and reminders. One of the easiest ways to reduce no-shows is to send your diners timely reminders. Some of our restaurant partners have shared using a 3-step process with SMS and email: 

  • Send an automated reminder 1-2 days in advance. 
  • Follow up by SMS on the day of the reservation and ask the diner to confirm their booking. 
  • Should you not hear back, get in touch by phone. By this stage, most diners have usually communicated back – leaving only a few people for you to contact.

Cropped photo of a person in front of a laptop holding a credit card whilst typing on the keyboard

3. Use a secure booking service (SBS): Some online booking systems provide the option to capture credit card details during the booking process. This makes it possible to charge a fee for no-shows or late cancellations. Restaurant partners who use this feature report seeing good results from taking the card details, but not actually charging any fees. The initial step is often enough to make diners show up or cancel in time. As implementing this option can impact diner bookings, it might not be suitable for all restaurants.

4. Charge a deposit: You might opt for a deposit upon booking. As doing so can affect conversion, please consider if this is the right choice for your restaurant. A deposit can seem reasonable to diners if they are aware of the high costs or effort to prepare the meal.

A restaurant worker in front of a POS-system, interacting with two guests

5. Communicate your reservation policy. Diners are often unaware of the impact of not showing up. We like to give diners the benefit of the doubt – anyone can forget an appointment. Yet some diners simply don't bother cancelling their booking, which is why it’s important to communicate any info about potential no-show charges, or how long you hold tables for before giving them up to other diners.

6. Consider overbooking. This somewhat controversial practice can be considered if you still experience high no-show rates after introducing other measures. Should you go down this route, we recommend that you create a plan for dealing with overbookings if all diners do show up.

7. Use a waitlist. Allow diners to sign up for a waitlist and have their phone numbers available for filling up freed-up tables. If you have an automated messaging system as described in our first tip, that simplifies the process even further.

How Quandoo for Restaurants can help your restaurant

Our reservation management system allows you to implement the majority of these strategies. Some of our commonly used features include automated reminders and confirmations, which will save you time and energy as well. We make it as easy as possible for diners to cancel in time, leaving you enough time to fill freed up tables. You can explore the full list of features by viewing our Plans

The future of no-shows – restaurants are educating diners

During the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw restaurant owners take to social media or news outlets to share their concerns about no-shows. As a result, diners might now be better educated now in “cancellation etiquette”, having learnt about the consequences of no-shows.

A cropped photo of a phone in a person’s hand. The screen shows a selection of restaurants in the Quandoo app.

Perhaps more impactful is the change in booking habits and the introduction of new reservation policies, made possible through online booking solutions. Diners in many markets are becoming accustomed to restaurants charging deposits or implementing stricter cancellation policies. This makes it easier for restaurants to tackle their no-shows and reduce financial losses.

Manage no-shows with ease

Reducing the number of no-shows in your restaurant is essential to running a profitable business. Start by learning how to reduce no-shows and cancellations, and consider which strategies are right for your restaurant. By implementing our tried and tested strategies, you’ll be well on your way to succeed.

Want to learn more about how our online reservation system helps you minimise no-shows? We’d love to speak with you – get in touch with our sales team here.

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