Chef Sven-Hanson Britt has said dropping the £50 booking deposit for his London restaurant to just £5 caused a huge rise in no-shows and cancellations and led to the reservation process becoming ‘dark and negative'.
The founder of Oxeye in London's Nine Elms conducted a trial over six months after feeling concerned that the higher deposit rate could be prohibitive to some guests.
Sharing his findings on social media, Britt said: "Our industry has changed so much, and I think this [data] might be helpful to one person, two people, people trying to make a decision about their style of hospitality."
Oxeye launched using the Tock reservations management system. During the three-month trial period charging a £50 deposit the restaurant had zero no-shows or late cancellations, outside of ‘real emergencies' where guests rebooked for another day.
Britt said: "I cannot emphasise how rare this is. It was solely down to the £50 deposit."
After the deposit was lowered to £5 for three months, early and late cancellations started coming in and the restaurant had its first no-show within a week of introducing the new policy.
Oxeye states within its booking terms and conditions that the restaurant will charge the cost of the menu to the booking card in the case of no-shows.
However, the chef said: "The security of being able to charge the card on file isn't really worth the paper it's written on. Cancelled cards, AMEX being AMEX and disgruntled emails all lead to the whole reservation process turning rather dark and negative."
He added: "So where we could previously control all reservations expertly, create menus with no waste, tailor experiences to guests beautifully and know what to expect on each day, the change in the deposit amount dramatically affected that without having any other real benefits.
"The only benefit I thought we might get would be to have larger numbers of reservations, and a waiting list, but the numbers were the same as before when we charged £50 so that just didn't happen."
The chef has now put the restaurant's deposit back to £50 and said he would "highly recommend" that any new restaurant also charged a deposit.
Oxeye opened in October 2021.