The impact of no-shows

12 March, 2019 by
Jerry Mai

Venues often rely on increased earnings during the holiday period to help carry them through quieter times. So why do people leave common courtesy in a cupboard during a time that’s supposed to be festive?

In December, I was chasing no-shows who seemed to think it was ok to book a table on a Friday or Saturday night and not turn up! I’m not talking about small tables of two or three, but large groups of six or more that ghosted on the night. They didn’t even have the courtesy to make a phone call to cancel or answer when we called to check if they were still coming. We hold tables for bookings, thus turning away walk-ins and declining other parties.


When we are fully booked, we put on more staff and have more food. We close Sundays, so what we order for Saturday is enough to cover us given the bookings we have. If bookings don’t show up, we have to carry over any food we can to Monday and waste the rest.

We also put extra staff on to meet the needs of our fully booked restaurant. When so many people don’t turn up, we can’t send extra staff home as they need to work a minimum of three hours. No-shows cost us a chunk of money and cut out our ability to make the profit our restaurant needed during the period.


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. 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. It didn’t matter how many times we explained we wouldn’t take money unless they were a no-show — people seemed to think we would take their credit card details and go on a shopping spree!

Somewhere along the line manners have been forgotten. In light of this, and after hearing similar stories of no-shows from others in the industry, we’ve been forced to reintroduce our previous booking policy instead of relying on common courtesy.


Perhaps a shared blacklist across online booking systems is the way forward to help venues cope with no-shows. Maybe this will have more impact on people who ghost on bookings if they find multiple venues declining them. Just a thought … or maybe manners need to come back into fashion?

This article originally appeared in Hospitality‘s February issue. Buy the issue for $9.90 here.

Image credit: Good Food