On their first weekend of operating under relaxed restrictions, a number of Sydney restaurants have been hit by no-shows.

Surry Hill’s Low 302 reopened for dine-in over the weekend, only to have a table of four leave them in limbo. Owner Aref Jaroudy took to Facebook to lament the situation, with hospitality workers sharing similar stories in the comments.

“Hi Aimee, We thank you for making a booking at Low for four people,” read the post. “Right now that is 40% of our entire capacity. The thing is Aimee, you didn’t show up for your booking. You didn’t have the common courtesy to call us up and cancel. We had people on a waiting list who would have been happy to take your reservation.”

It continued, “Maybe you have no idea the financial impact this has on a restaurant right now. Maybe you don’t care. You have single handedly set the worst of precedence for our entire industry at this most difficult time. Furthermore you have put us in the position of having to now ask other bookings to pay a deposit when booking. Something we really wanted to avoid having to do.

“Aimee, there is a special place for you to burn in hospo hell.”

Jaroudy told Concrete Playground it was most painful to turn other diners away: “It’s a shame. We got slammed with potential bookings when we announced we were opening. To say no, you feel like you’re letting them down.”

Fellow Surry Hills venue Poly also reported a no-show on Saturday night, with owner Mat Lindsay sharing his thoughts in a now deleted Instagram post.

As Melbourne restaurateur Jerry Mai previously wrote for Hospitality, no-shows are a persistent burden for the industry. It’s a particularly bitter sting with capacity already heavily reduced under COVID-19 regulations. Venues in New South Wales can serve just 10 diners at a time and must also follow the density requirement of one person per 4 square meters.

While some venues are offering walk-ins, bookings are touted as an important component of the industry’s path to reopening safely. A number of suggestions have been floated to help mitigate the potential for lost revenue, such as taking credit card details and requesting pre-payment or deposits.

“When we first opened, we had strict booking policies where we would take credit card details if customers booked a table of six or more and would charge a small nominal fee in the event of a no-show,” wrote Mai. “The policy isn’t uncommon in the industry, however we found we were losing large bookings as people were reluctant to secure a booking with their credit card details.”

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