OPINION

Customers must help it make the season of goodwill

By Stosie Madi, chef-patron of the Parkers Arms

- Last updated on GMT

Dealing with no-shows: Stosie Madi of the Parkers Arms, Lancashire
Dealing with no-shows: Stosie Madi of the Parkers Arms, Lancashire

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December is our trade’s busiest time of the year. It’s when hospitality gets to play a starring role in people’s social calendar.

It is also when our industry is sometimes taken for granted and our patience and kindness is abused by a small number of consumers that are out of touch with the daily challenges faced by hospitality.

Long gone are the days when consumers thought twice before cancelling bookings at the last minute or making excuses for fewer covers turning up on a prepaid booking and expecting us to absorb the losses quietly.

In 2015, after a particularly stormy winter and a raft of no-shows, we decided to implement a 50% non-refundable deposit when booking a table for any dates during December then 50% balance to be paid two weeks prior to the booking date. This proved a good deterrent to no-shows and helped with planning for staffing adequately. We’ve never looked back but it has its challenges.

Obviously, none of the above will stop the odd no-show on the day. Unfortunate events do happen in everyday life and our industry is very tolerant and understanding. After all, we are in hospitality, but... yes there is a but, it makes me see red when a large booking shows up with fewer numbers than booked and prepaid for.

Makes me irate

This, reader, is when I put on my Scrooge hat and play the Dickensian character supremely well. Yes, I know it is the season of goodwill and all that but the bills don’t pay themselves and when guests demand the no-shows’ monies on a table of 12 (now an eight, for example) be credited to the final bill it really makes me irate.

Would the same apply if the whole party did not show up for a concert or train journey? Would they expect a credit or a refund? No, it would not happen. Mostly, people would not presume to take it for granted that agreements can be broken without forfeit in other industries so why expect it of hospitality?

My team members are in waiting, paid to be of service. They are giving up their precious festive times to work and we pay a premium for their labour. The no-show cover could have been sold 20 times over up to at least a week prior because we usually keep a waiting list, however, as a remote rural destination pub, it simply is impossible to fill that space last minute.

Annoyingly what makes me even more angry is when a guest claims they have spent a lot on drinks to make up for the no-show. What they fail to realise is the missing covers drinks were already factored in the projected spend so, technically, we are making a greater loss.

A minority of consumers believe hospitality benefits from a mythical money tree where we can miraculously make up any financial shortfalls or should waive it off. This inconsiderate and unrealistic customer expectation is an added challenge that I wish we do not have to contend with during a period when we should be maximising on sales and profit.

Consideration and respect

Until the hospitality customer understands we face the same, if not greater, challenges as other industries and that we deserve the same consideration and respect they automatically afford other trades, we will always face these hurdles.

If we all set out a plan to eradicate this irresponsible behaviour and stick to it, customers would then accept it as standard. No show = no refunds or credits unless otherwise stated or in exceptional circumstances.

Thankfully, not all customers are the same and cheers to the precious ones that show up with less numbers than booked for, apologise, don’t allude to any of it, have a jolly good time with us and just not add said people to their booking in future or, even better, ask the no-shows for the refund.

Fingers crossed we don’t get to deal with many this year. Happy December trading one and all.

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