Nasty restaurant trend

A disturbing trend is costing restaurants a lot more than we realise.

A rather disturbing restaurant trend has reared its ugly head again. It’s always been around and it happens all over the world and with restaurants, owners, mangers and chefs now having their say on twitter we are all the more aware of it.

What am I talking about?

The no show.

I for one cannot comprehend such bad manners but it happens a lot. If you can be bothered to phone to book a table and harangue the hostess for ten minutes about where you are going to be seated then I can't understand by the same token why you cannot pick up the phone and cancel the booking should you need to.

Even if you do it half an hour before the time, that is better than the restaurant giving you half an hour over your booking time to account for you running late only for you not to show up at all. That crucial hour is the most frustrating, according to Nic Haarhoff (owner of popular Cape Town Mexican restaurant El Burro), as the likelihood of walk-ins decreases rapidly after 8pm - the most popular time for restaurant bookings. 

We asked a couple of Cape Town restaurateurs their opinions:

Nic Haarhoff of El Burro has a customer communication wishlist

- Diminished numbers (allows us to reshuffle tables and accomodate other customers. Nothing worse than having 3 seats on a 6 seater).
- Increased numbers (it’s not always possible to accommodate more people, especially on weekend nights. We often have groups much larger than have booked arrive and it puts immense pressure on my staff, which in turn impacts negatively on other patrons service).
- Running late/early (often restaurants will do an early booking on your table booked for 8pm. If you come early your table may not be ready. If you come late, we may have given your table away. All can be avoided by a simple phone call).
Franck Dangeraux owner of The Foodbarn in Noordhoek

When a restaurant is fully booked, we rely on those people to arrive as other guests have been turned away, either over the phone or at the door. The loss of revenue from no shows can be disastrous... in some instances it has amounted to 20% of the full capacity of the restaurant.

I'd like to believe that people omit to cancel out of ignorance rather than meanness, I don't think they really consider the consequences of not showing, but it hurts us, plus it is downright embarrassing to have turned guests away and still have empty tables on the floor.

Really, it boils down to manners and it is so easy to phone or drop an email to cancel a booking, it's about treating others the way you like to be treated... with respect.

Mari Vigar of La Mouette, Seapoint

La Mouette Restaurant is a restaurant that confirms bookings daily, this includes telephonic, email bookings and our own online reservations. It allows us to plan our dinner services with an aim to provide the best possible service we can to keep our customers happy.

We manage our bookings per time slot without pushing the guests, we draw up a detailed table plan daily, we plan the seatings in our different dining rooms and space them out as to not put all guests in one dining room at the same time, we plan our waiters allocated to certain sections and all has to fit in and balance out with the kitchen and it's level of energy. For example Chef Henry is at his best when we have 15 to 20 covers per half an hour slot. Multiply this by an average of  3 - 4 hours of full-on dinner service with mostly 6 course menus and you almost have and idea of what a night at La Mouette Restaurant is like.

Waiters feel the brunt of it

'No shows' puts a huge spanner in all of the above. The knock on effect - apart from losing the obvious 'spend per head' which affects any restaurant greatly and possibly hurts the most - are that the staff who were allocated the 'no show table' have now also lost out on their tips too. They know what they should be earning per night for the amount of covers they are allocated based on the average spend per head they are accustomed too - most of my staff have been with me since we opened our doors 2 years ago and I feel very sorry for them when this happens.

I am sure if you calculate the cost of no shows over a year - the figures would be scary.

Customers demand respect and courtesy when they eat out. Why can the same not be afforded to the restaurants?

Next time you decide to just not show up I hope you take a minute to think about the restaurant, the business, the waiter and the plain rudeness of your inconsideration.

Is there a viable solution to this problem? Vote and comment below, we'd love to hear your views.
By: Cath Shone


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