Pubs need to do more to tackle no-shows

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Industry problems: diners who do not turn up for their bookings at pubs is a big issue in the trade
Industry problems: diners who do not turn up for their bookings at pubs is a big issue in the trade

Related tags: Pub operators

Operators should move towards technology to help them deal with the industry-wide issues of no-shows, according to a booking expert.

No-shows can cost pubs money and the staff its jobs but operators also need to join forces in a bid to tackle the issue.

UK online discovery portal DesignMyNight co-founder Nick Telson said: “Pub operators are trying, with the tools they have, to deal with the issue of no-shows.

“However, a great deal of this is manual and hugely labour-intensive, with hosts/managers having to call customers to double-check they are coming in, or for [credit] card details.

“With the hundreds of other tasks front of house needs to deliver every day, the reality is checks will, at times, get missed.

“I would also recommend that pub operators mark customers as no-shows in their booking system. This allows them to keep a list of regular offenders and send them a friendly, but informative, email or they have the option to stop them from making future bookings.”

He explained that taking deposits can be a good idea to secure bookings and claw back some money for no-shows, but this needs to be handled carefully.

Alleviating concern

Telson added: “Pub operators need to manage this with discretion. Does an operator need to take card authorisation for a group of two diners on a Monday?

“Probably not. I would recommend tailoring it to the busier service periods. For example, deploying it on bookings of six or over from Monday to Wednesday, groups of four or more on a Thursday and across all bookings on a Friday and Saturday.

“A card authentication is a lot ‘softer’ than a deposit, which will alleviate the concern of a drop in bookings.”

He also called for the industry to come together in order to showcase the effect no-shows have on business.

“Pub operators and service providers need to work together as one community to highlight the impact of no-shows to the press and through social media channels,” Telson said.

“Pubs, no matter how large, are businesses that employ a ton of people who rely on that employment for their livelihood.

“It is very simple, multiple no-shows puts jobs at risk. Customers tip waiting staff because they appreciate the job they do and know they often rely on tips to maintain a liveable wage.”

However, Telson also said operators should not name and shame customers who do not turn up to bookings.

No angry posts

He added: “No-shows are the opposite of this, putting jobs at risk. These are stories we need to be putting out to the media and though social. These are the stories that resonate with consumers – not angry posts naming and shaming.” 

Licensees need to be open and honest about the impact no-shows have with their customers in order to make them realise how much damage it does, according to Telson.

“There needs to be a transition period of changing the customer’s mindset. After all, it is better for them to cancel, than not show up at all," he said.

“An operator can always try to fill the space or re-market through a waitlist or social media channels. Sometimes there will be a legitimate reason for a customer to cancel, which the majority of operators do get.

“However, if an operator is busy and booked out well in advance, as long as the cancellation policy is clear and up front (not hidden in loads of terms and conditions) then customers tend to be fine with it. Transparency is key here.”

He summarised three top tips in how operators should deal with no-shows:

  1. “Start taking upfront card authentications for busier periods and see whether this has an impact on the decline of bookings versus no-shows.
  2. “Be up front with customers via your website, on the booking journey and through social media, telling them how important it is to respect the no-show problem. The majority of customers will react better to the issue when they realise the significant impact on the industry.
  3. “Use pre-ordering as a mechanism to act as a deposit while also upselling to the customer.”

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