Restaurant operators are pleading for people to cancel their table reservations if they’re no longer able to attend, with concerns surrounding mass no-shows emerging again.
Empty tables have been described as a ‘lethal’ blow for the sector just as many hospitality businesses begin to reopen.
Restaurants have warned that the issue of no-shows has cost the sector £16bn a year, and could be just as crippling as the pandemic itself.
Reservations in Manchester city centre in particular have been snapped up throughout April and May, with some local restaurants saying people are ‘biting their arm off’ to get even a mid-week booking.
But already, just days after this much-missed industry welcomed back customers, some north west businesses are reporting people missing their bookings without warning.
Matt Snell is the chief executive of Gusto restaurants. He say 15 per cent of their customers failed to turn up – and failed to notify staff that they weren’t coming.
Not all of its sites have been able to reopen yet, and those that do are running on a reduced capacity in outside spaces.
He tweeted: “15pc of covers no showed yesterday, this is despite confirmation email, personal call in the morning, confirmation text four hours before the booking. If you can make it, no problem. JUST LET US KNOW.”
Fred Sirieix, maitre d on Channel 4’s First Dates and a huge advocate for the hospitality industry, shared Matt’s tweet, adding: “If you book a restaurant turn up, that is just basic.”
Rochdale’s Wow Yau Chow restaurant also shared the post, saying: “It really is simple. Turn up or cancel your bookings early.
“Hospitality is already working to reduced seating. #GiveUsAChance is ALL that we ask.
“If we start to experience no shows – we would be forced to take a deposit, which we absolutely don’t want to do.”
UK Hospitality’s CEO Kate Nicholls said: “A heartfelt plea – if plans change, we understand but tell us and then we can let someone else take the space. No shows cost businesses and they can ill afford it at the moment”
Others responded to the chef saying that no-shows were ‘the scourge of today’s restaurant industry’ and ‘utterly infuriating’.
Manchester street food business Grub posted: “Don’t be a d***head. Please honour your table bookings. Indie hospitality can’t take much more. Thank you kindly.”
The #NoMoreNoShows campaign, launched last July with support from some of the country’s most high-profile chefs, has been brought back to life as pubs and bars reopen again.
The original campaign came from hospitality recruitment company Sixty-Eight People and Antonia Lallement from Gusto with a simple message – cancel your booking if you can’t make it.
Abi Dunn of Sixty-Eight People said: “Last summer’s campaign was all about helping our beloved hospitality industry get back on its feet. The public were amazing at sharing the message and now the industry needs their help again.
“The sector was shocked and saddened by the number of no shows back in July and with sites currently reporting ‘fully booked’ space, we just want to make sure that’s what they actually have.
“Our message has always been ‘it’s’ OK to cancel’, in fact you’re helping the team onsite by doing so. Making no shows a thing of the past would be the dream here.”
Simon Wood, former Masterchef winner and chef patron at Wood on First Street, said: “After a time when hospitality and its vast supply chain, like many industries, has been catastrophically impacted by the pandemic, we now find ourselves at the dawn of yet another reopening.
“This brings its own challenges of trying to obtain supply of produce and the huge cost of restocking any venue big or small.
“The huge knock-on impact to costs, wastage, resource and employers caused by no shows is something that can certainly be avoided.
“A little courtesy goes a long way and a simple phone call in a timely manner can help to mitigate any negative impact on a business.”
Menesh Modhwadia is director of operations for Mission Mars, the company behind Albert’s Schloss.
He said: “We have spent lots of time and money creating safe and amazing spaces for our guests to return to and we can’t wait to open our doors.
“But it’s so important to us, and I’m sure all operators, that guests let us know if they are unable to attend.”