5 ways to help prevent no-shows this Christmas

Put an end to no-shows: unfulfilled bookings costs the sector £17.6bn per year (credit: Getty/StockRocket)
Put an end to no-shows: unfulfilled bookings costs the sector £17.6bn per year (credit: Getty/StockRocket)

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Technology provider Zonal has offered tips on how to ensure customers who have made bookings to drink and dine at your pub don't disappoint you by failing to show.

Four Cs to reducing no-shows

Optional box out:​ Four Cs to reducing no-shows: 

Communicate – ​your booking policy, so customers know what to expect on their journey from making a reservation to arriving in venue

Consider​ ​ taking a deposit. More than half (55%) of consumers say they would be willing to pay a no-show fee if they didn’t turn up to their reservation

Confirm – ​stay in touch with customers after they have booked. Zonal's research showed more than a third (36%) of consumers who haven’t fulfilled a booking because they forgot about it would be more likely to show up if the venue reminded them

Connect – ​building loyalty is essential, especially among younger customers. Make the most of technology to build and reward loyalty and stay in contact with personalised communications to enhance that relationship 

With footfall this Christmas forecast to reach pre-pandemic levels – 3.3 million people have already made a reservation for the festive period, according to research from KAM Media – operators need to look at how to minimise the risk of no-shows during this key trading period.

Hospitality technology specialist Zonal has collaborated with businesses such as UKHospitality, the British Institute of Innkeeping and CGA to launch the #ShowUpForHospitality campaign​ after calculating that no-shows cost the industry a staggering £17.6bn a year in lost sales.

1. Send reminders

Staying in touch with customers once they have booked is an effective way to prevent no-shows – Zonal's recent GO Technology research​, in partnership with CGA, showed that among consumers who haven’t fulfilled a booking because they forgot about it, more than a third (36%) said they would be more likely to show up if the venue reminded them.

Key to this approach is timing, with just over a quarter of people saying they’d like to be reminded on the day, while 38% prefer a few days in advance and 11% a week ahead. This need not become a hugely onerous task, technology can be employed to send automated responses and reminders.

2. Deposits

There is no doubt a large number of operators remain nervous about asking customers for deposits but, as more than half (51%) of consumers say they would be willing to pay to secure their booking, it’s worth at least considering the policy for certain trading periods.

Used sparingly, for busy nights and key occasions – two thirds of people said they would be happy to pay a deposit for a special occasion (65%) or a special day (63%), for example – deposits can act as a powerful incentive. Blanket application, however, would be damaging as some groups (notably 18 to 24-year-olds, according to the research) would not welcome them, nor are most people happy to pay a deposit for a more casual night out (only 41%, in fact).

High days and holidays only then, but think beyond the more obvious Halloween and Mother’s Day opportunities to include busy Saturday nights and/or particularly coveted areas, such as booths or snugs.

3. Make it easy to cancel

The old school telephone remains important when it comes to customers wanting to cancel a booking, with 39% of people saying this is how they’d prefer to do it. The majority (58%), however, prefer to cancel digitally, which could be via text, email, app or website.

In the fight against no-shows, then, offering choice is important. It also stands to reason that the more hassle cancelling is, the less people are likely to do it, so whichever method they choose, optimising technology to make it as simple as possible will reap rewards.

4. Adopt an over-booking policy

While standard practice in some industries, such as airlines, it is not in common use in hospitality – but is it time for a rethink?

Like the use of deposits, generally operators are wary of this idea but there are ways by which risk can be mitigated. By using data and insights from tech systems, for example, businesses can work out exactly how much they might be able to over-book without damaging business.

Combining this with a system in which some tables are always kept free for walk-ins and training for staff in how to handle such a situation will help minimise the risk, as it makes sense to take additional bookings in order to compensate for those that are lost.

5. Take a targeted approach

The GO Technology report revealed of those who failed to show up for bookings young people and parents were the worst offenders – which is bad news because these are two of the most valuable groups to the trade.

Across all demographics, 14% of people said that since reopening in April they hadn’t turned up for a booking and hadn’t told the venue. Among 18 to 24-year-olds, however, that number rises to 28% (and 64% of those eat out weekly). During the same period, 15% of parents failed to turn up for their booking and, perhaps even more concerning, one fifth of them (21%) say they are more likely to not make it for a booking than they were before the pandemic, much higher than those without children (6%).

When resources are tight then, targeting these groups with follow-up messages and making it as easy as possible for them to cancel could reap rewards. Similarly, if you have a bumper booking of young people or parents one evening, perhaps then is the time to consider overbooking or to implement deposits.

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