Ghosting on tables is hurting our restaurants more than ever.
Being aware of the host of rules around how to behave in a restaurant has always been important. While being polite to the staff, basic table manners and forgiving mistakes are always appreciated, showing up to your booking has never been more important than right now when venues can only serve a limited amount of customer per sitting.
You would think it goes without saying; that the right thing to do is either show up for your booking on time or cancel the booking if you cannot make it. However, it seems this concept is lost on some.
When Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews gave regional Victoria the green light to move to step three of the roadmap, restaurants and pubs rejoiced at the news they desperately needed to survive.
Under the current restrictions in regional Victoria, hospitality businesses can serve patrons outdoors, with a cap of 50 seated patrons per venue, and an updated ‘two square metre’ density limit in place.
It’s seating indoors that is making life tricky. Venues can open with a cap of 10 people seated indoors per space – with up to two spaces per venue (for a maximum of 20 customers) – and the four-square metre rule must be applied. There’s also a two-hour limit on bookings for groups of less than 10 people.
With restaurants serving only a fraction of what their venues can cater to, no-shows are costing businesses crucial dollars in a time where every single dollar counts.
The past few weeks – in a time where we should be seeing venues celebrate the return of their customers – has instead seen venues reminding customers about the importance of showing up or cancelling bookings so they can serve as many people as possible.
Just one week after reopening to the public, Bomboras Torquay suffered a massive blow with a booking of eight and a booking of nine failing to turn up to their reservation on a Saturday night. With the current restrictions, this meant the restaurant sat half-empty for two hours on the weekend.
“We have been inundated with booking requests and could have easily filled your tables if you just let us know,” the venue said in a post to social media.
“It’s frustrating for us, and frustrating for the people that wanted to come out for dinner but couldn’t get in. So from now on, please don’t be offended if we ask for a deposit for bookings of over six people.”
Likewise, Geelong’s loved waterfront restaurant Edge had more than 80 late cancellations and no shows this weekend, leading to the venue to introduce a late cancellation/no show fee for all bookings. Now to secure your booking, customers must enter their credit card details.
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Hey Edge Family, First of all, THANK YOU so much for all the support we've received since opening again! At this stage we alike all Geelong hospitality venues have VERY LIMITED CAPACITY due to the restrictions and are booking out well in advance for most sittings. However, just over the last weekend alone, we had MORE THAN 80 late cancellations and no shows for bookings. This is super disappointing to say the least… We continue to have countless requests for bookings 7 days a week and can easily fill the tables if only we are notified in a respectable amount of time. It is for this reason we have had to introduce a late cancellation/no show fee for all bookings and the T&Cs are clearly listed when booking. We hope you can understand. Thank you again to all the people doing the right thing by your local Hospo industry. – Edge Crew
They are not the only ones looking to prepayment.
To secure your booking, Sweet Cheeks Cocktail and Dessert Lounge take a deposit which is removed from your bill on the night, while other venues have opted to take a deposit of a certain amount per head upon booking.
While it’s the last thing they wanted to do, who could blame some venues for taking these precautions to protect their livelihoods and that of their staff until restrictions ease further?
Speaking from experience, it’s been near-impossible to get a booking anywhere at the moment, with most sittings across the region booked out well in advance, which is brilliant. However, when patrons decide not to rock up, there are detrimental effects on our favourite restaurants.
“One of the main issues we are facing in our pubs at the moment is bookings where only a portion of the group are showing up, or not showing up at all,” explains Joel Taylor of the Taylor Group (Barwon Heads Hotel, Grovedale Hotel and Torquay Hotel).
“As our capacity is limited to around 10% of our usual capacity, this has a disastrous effect on the trade for the day. We are desperately trying to make ends meet with these highly restricted trading conditions and a few no shows per service can be the difference between covering costs and losing money.”
No-shows have always been a plague of the restaurant industry, messing up everything from staff workload to cooks’ prep work. But in ‘normal’ times, it was easier to fill that gap with walk-ins or shake off the missed revenue.
Now in the middle of a pandemic when capacity is limited and businesses are fighting for survival, they are far more damaging.
Of course, sometimes things happen and you just can’t make your booking, which is fine. There are legitimate reasons to cancel and it’s not going to be the end of the world if you give a restaurant the heads up that you will not be able to make it. In current times, it’s likely the spot will be filled from an eager dining community who have been waiting months for the opportunity to dine out.
When you think about the amount of money these venues have lost having been closed for the last few months, operating at such limited capacity isn’t exactly going to be making them a lot of money to begin with. If anything, these restaurants are just opening to keep their venues afloat and staff paid.
There’s never been a better time to visit restaurants than right now. The industry is hungry to serve their loyal customers; restaurants have missed you just as much as you’ve missed them. And while social distancing rules are in place, there is also less chance of overhearing the conversation at the table next to you (and vice versa).
So, my main point?
To put it simply, just don’t be a jerk. Stick to your booking, call ahead if numbers change and just cancel if you’re not going to make it. Maintaining some common courtesy and simple restaurant etiquette ensures dining be a rewarding experience for all involved.
If you’re looking for somewhere new to dine, check out this Asian fusion restaurant that’s just opened in Torquay.