Operators have issued pleas to guests after hundreds failed to show up for bookings on their first days of opening.
Italian restaurant group Gusto opened nine of its 18 venues on Monday after being closed for more than three months, only for 270 of those who had booked not to take their seats. In the group's 110- to 120-cover restaurant in Cheadle, Greater Manchester, 57 guests did not arrive or cancel their bookings.
Speaking to The Caterer, Gusto's chief financial officer Frank Bandura said that no-shows were "a real problem in the sector".
"Traditionally what used to happen is you'd call round your bookings and make sure they were still coming and that was enough but since we've moved online, it's so easy to book and so easy not to bother coming."
Antonia Lallement, brand sales manager, explained that it is not something the group can ignore. "To comply with government guidelines on track and trace we're only taking online bookings rather than walk-ins, so we're already missing out on a lot of trade and, of course, it's harder for us to fill those tables up. If 57 covers cancel, we're not getting those back.
"It's upsetting because the last thing we want to be focusing on is not being able to fill tables or confirming every table of two to make sure they're coming.
"We're trying our best to make the guest experience absolutely world class in these confusing times. We're trying to figure out so many new things and our teams are working so hard. We've been closed for three months – we need our guests to support us and understand the effect they have when they don't show up."
Gusto is not the only restaurant group to have experienced no-shows in the days since reopening. Damian Wawrzyniak, chef-patron of House of Feasts in Peterborough, said he had four no-shows on the first night of opening while Joe Cussens, managing director of the Bath Pub Company, said two parties failed to arrive by 12.30pm on Saturday.
Cussens told The Caterer: "Given the tough time we've all had the idea that somebody would not turn up and not have the courtesy to let you know they don't want the table anymore just beggars belief, because it has a real financial impact.
"Surprisingly, for us it was the very first tables on the very first morning on Saturday. We decided as a result to put in place a system where we take card details to secure the booking and if people don't call ahead and let us know they're not able to make it then we will charge them £10 per head. It's a bit of a no-brainer really we can't afford to have a table lying idle that other customers wanted and somebody has not turned up for."
No-shows have long been a problem for the industry and many operators have decided to take deposits or card details on bookings, however Lallement explained it was not something Gusto have wanted to do for smaller parties.
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