Take your seat
HOSPA CEO Jane Pendlebury tackles the issue of the no show
Hotel guests, generally speaking, are well aware that when they don’t make use of a confirmed booking they are very likely to be charged or, at the very least, lose any deposit that’s already been paid for a room. Guests booking through an online travel agent will probably have fully pre-paid in advance, so understand it’s up to them to make use of the reservation.
It can get a bit more complicated if a guest wants to check out earlier than originally planned, but has benefitted from a nightly rate based on a minimum length of stay. Hoteliers, however, are now adept at explaining this to guests who don’t appreciate the finer details of revenue management. A copy of the terms and conditions is usually attached to hotel reservation confirmations either online or via email, enabling the hotelier to legitimately raise invoices for lost business.
So hoteliers then have largely got the issue of ‘no shows’ covered through recognised procedures. An aspect of this that’s currently hitting the headlines and social media channels though, are the rights of a restaurateur when a reserved table fails to arrive. The loss of revenue from an empty table in a restaurant can never be recovered. The time has passed and, like the unprepared food in the kitchen, the opportunity has perished.
The damage caused by these no-shows can vary enormously from one establishment to another. If that table can easily be re-sold to a chance group of customers, then the restaurant is unlikely to have suffered too much loss of income. However, an independent restaurant in a quiet location could see its revenue significantly damaged by no-shows.
I have heard stories of restaurants naming and shaming no-show customers, which may give the owner/manager temporary satisfaction, but with the repercussions of longer term reputational damage that may not be so welcome. As unfulfilled restaurant reservations appear to be becoming a larger problem for independent establishments, there needs to be a solution. With increasing food cost already eating into profits, empty tables in a restaurant can be the beginning of the end for many operators. Should restaurants taking deposits become more common-place? Should restaurant no-show charges become the norm? Would that stop people behaving in such a blasé manner? I think it probably would.
Staffing in both the kitchen and on the restaurant floor is an ever-growing problem, not solely because of Brexit, but that surely has not helped. Yet another angle that could see restaurateurs’ profits suffer are the potential changes to tips, troncs and service charges. Our guide - which I have mentioned before in this column - will be launched in June.
But it’s not all bad news. The team in a restaurant who are subject to the same minimum wage and national living wage regulations as nurses, are much more likely to go home with extra cash in their pockets. Big Hospitality recently reported that the public are more likely to tip waiters and waitresses above any other industry worker, with 88% claiming that they tip waiting staff. Apparently, 20% would still tip even if the service is poor, while 32% would not ask for the service charge to be taken off despite bad service.
The hospitality industry is currently facing many challenges. But - like any industry - the challenges we face fluctuate and won’t go on indefinitely. We operate in an agile sector, well practiced in adapting our approach to move with the times. Things that may be a headache at present, help us to grow and refine our offering to reflect the wants and needs of our guests, as well as meeting the requirements of our workforce.