How To Deal With Restaurant No-Shows

How To Deal With Restaurant No-Shows

Owning and running a restaurant comes with many frustrations. One of which are ‘no-shows’. Customers who reserve a table only to not show up. There is a difference between a ‘no-show’ and a ‘cancellation’. The latter will have the diner call up with an apology and a notice they will not be coming. 

Many times, customers are not aware of their actions causing such disruption to your restaurant. But it does. Sometimes, apart from the wasted effort gone into setting the table, it can really hurt profits. An empty table is a table where money is lost. The average cost of a no-show can be anything between 20 to 50 EUR. Over a month that can be up to 12,000 EUR.

Below are some suggestions you could try to help minimise the amount of times this happens to you and your restaurant.

Time Slots

When a booking is made, mention that if they are not there within a certain time of their booking then the table is freed up and becomes available should another diner want it. This time period is usually about 15 minutes. Of course if your customer calls to inform you they are running late then this can be extended.

Allocated time slot for those no shows


Some restaurants charge to make a reservation. To keep things fair, the amount charged is taken off the final bill should the diners turn up. Otherwise it’s lost. If this seems too harsh then you can send the charged amount in the form of a gift card which they can redeem when they finally do make it for a meal at a later date.

No Reservations

One obvious option is to not take reservations at all! This works if you have no problem filling your restaurant.


Now, on the other end of not having any reservations is to overbook. This is risky because if everyone shows up then some diners will have to wait. It is not good customer service to make people wait. Especially when they are hungry. You run the risk of them not wanting to return again.

Keep Track

If you are a clever bunny of a restaurant owner and maintain a database of your customers then keep track of those who are repeat offenders. When booking a red flag will appear against their name and you can use your discretion if you wish to allow the booking or not.

Keep track of repeat offenders

Gentle Reminders

Sometimes, it’s a simple case of your diners just forgetting. A solution to this would be to give them a quick call on the day to remind them of their reservation. Some booking apps will send confirmations and reminders.

Go Online

As people tend to use their smartphones more, consider an online reservation system. As mentioned above, diners get automatic reminders along with links to cancel or change their booking. Cancellation reminders will help diners to be more responsible and, teamed with the option to amend when they will show up, they’ll be less likely to cancel all together.

No-shows are rude. Unfortunately, it’s one of those things that happens and will continue to happen. Try some of the suggestions above and keep track of whether or not things improve to find out which method works best for you. 

Hanh Harper

Branding specialist and crisp hoarder

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