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3. May 2021, 10 min read

No shows and how to deal with them as a restaurant

Author: Dennis Hauge
No shows and how to deal with them as a restaurant
No shows with DinnerBooking

If you are working in the restaurant industry, you are probably familiar with no-shows – when guests fail to show at a reserved table.

And we can probably all agree, that it is quite disconcerting – both because the restaurant will lose revenue and because it often results in food waste when the restaurant has to throw away good produce.

What can you do about it yourself? We admit that there is no easy way to solve the problem. There may not be a way to end no-shows completely, but with some of these solutions, restaurants can begin to combat the problem.

Here is our take on how to deal with no-shows in your restaurants.

Communicate the issue in a good way

Finding a way to communicate the importance of guests showing up to their reservations is one of the keys to reducing the problem of no-shows.

You can use your social media platforms, blogs etc. to write about the importance of cancelling reservations in time to give customers some background on the issue and its effects on the business.

But unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as it might sound. Because how do you get the customers’ attention and interest in the subject? That is much easier said than done.

It is probably very easy for you to tell what no-shows do to your business because it is something you have close at heart. The real problem here is that customers may not find the subject interesting even though it is a subject of high importance to you.

You are the one having a lot at stake here – the guest does not at all besides maybe a little bit of guilty conscience.

So you have to be somehow creative when trying to communicate the issue. Maybe talk about food waste which is very trendy at the moment or another angle that customers may care about or can relate to.

Most customers aren’t really aware that it causes a loss in potential profit for the restaurant when they fail to show up.

What did you do wrong?

When you communicate the issue it is very important to have in mind that the people on your social media is also your customers. So you need to speak up about the problem in a way that you can still maintain a good relationship with your guests.

So .. should you make an angry post on your Facebook page about “no showers” ruining your business or ban them from your restaurant for eternity? The answer to that is probably NO you should not.

The fact is that most customers aren’t aware that it causes a loss in potential profit for the restaurant when they fail to show up.

They don’t always realize that skipping a reservation can hurt the business – especially in a small restaurant –  which makes it even more tricky to solve the problem.

So the intention of not showing up is probably not ruining your business. It is more likely a lack of knowledge about consequences, forgetfulness or something getting in the way like a family emergency where cancelling a table isn’t on top of mind at that moment.

With that said if some guest has a long history of not showing up maybe you should reconsider what to do. If you have a booking system you can easier keep track of no showers.

Decrease no shows with DinnerBooking

No-shows are a common problem

Speaking of booking systems… It has never been easier to make a reservation than it is today where most restaurants use an online booking system.

Today customers can make a reservation online in no time without contacting the restaurant and without the restaurant spending time writing the reservation in their order book – the booking system administrates it all.

Even though online booking and booking systems, in general, are very convenient and helpful for both restaurant and guest it also makes it much easier to become a “no-shower”.

You can easily book several restaurants at the same time to make sure there is a free table for you while you decide whether you want Italian or French this upcoming weekend. And when you go for French you already forgot about Italian.

Online booking takes away the ‘human’ element of making a booking.

When there is no interaction between guests and restaurant staff most guests aren’t considering the impact their no-shows will have on the business.

We forget

Also today we have more and more casual dining. Going out to eat isn’t just something we do on special occasions today – a lot of people do it very often. The perceived value of a reservation may, therefore, have diminished for many individuals.

And let’s not forget that we are all human and humans do forget. So that reservation a guest made three weeks ago while doing four other things at the same time was like it never happened. Like a chef can forget to order zucchini even though he knows it is ratatouille-Monday next week.

The problem could easily be solved if you decided not to have a booking system or take no reservations at all in your restaurant and only have walk-ins. But unless you have a restaurant that is always full and very hyped that solution is probably pretty risky for your business.

We are lazy

The trend is that if you don’t allow the guest to book online, they will find another place to eat because they want to be sure that they have a table and they want a booking to be as easy as possible. Even calling a restaurant to get a reservation is too much for most people.

So unless your restaurant is such hype that people are willing to wait in line to get a table or come back another day if you are full – skipping a booking system is probably a bad idea.   

So one of the easiest things you can do instead to avoid no-shows is to help people remember their booking.

Help your guests remember

Eliminate no shows with DinnerBooking

A significant number of no-shows as said earlier simply just due to forgetfulness. So one thing you can do is to remind guests of their upcoming reservation. There are different ways to do that.

“I’m sending you an SMS”

And an easy way to avoid no-shows is to send a confirmation on SMS when people book at your restaurant. When you get closer to the booking date you can send a friendly reminder to remind guests about their booking.

You can also send a confirmation and reminder by mail as well.

“Let me know if you are still coming?”

To ensure that the guest is planning to use the booking, a simple solution can be to send out an automatic reminder mail or SMS beforehand. Here, you can ask the guest to confirm the booking, and if this does not happen, you can choose either to contact the guest or to cancel the booking.

“I will wait for you”

If you have a waiting list it gives the customer an option to register an be put on the waiting list which is a chance to optimize the occupancy rate. Also if people cancel very late or not showing up, there is a chance to still get people in your restaurant.

“Do you need to cancel?”

Make it easy to cancel a booking. If you can’t do it online and you have to call the restaurant guests are more likely to not cancel their booking.


Another way to help to avoid the issue is different payment solutions. But will it scare them if you ask for a deposit or credit card information when they make a reservation? You have to consider if it makes sense in your restaurant to do the following.

Give me your numbers

One option is to ask the guest to note credit card information when booking a table. Here you can notify the guest that you have a cancellation policy and that you will charge an amount if the guest does not cancel but fails to show up.

Holding credit card details gives you peace of mind. You don’t need to worry about losing a lot of profit. For most restaurants, this solution is better than an upfront payment which often makes this the preferred option for many restaurants — for guests who turn up, their overall experience doesn’t change.

But a cancellation policy should also be flexible for when guests have emergencies or other reasonable reasons for needing to cancel their booking. Maybe you should consider looking at each incident on a case-by-case basis.

If you choose to charge people after a “no show” might be aware, that they will never book your restaurant again –  have consequences in mind if you consider charging a fee.

Also, customers can be tempted to find another place because they don’t want to give up that information and choose a restaurant that doesn’t require that.

“I need a dollar $$$”

Another option is to use prepayment. Here you automatically send the guest an email asking them to make a prepayment to confirm the reservation. You can decide what the prepayment amount should be, and this amount is deducted from the final bill in the restaurant.

This is more likely to be used in high-class and Michelin restaurants. Guest will probably not pay in advance at a café or a normal restaurant – unless you have an event where you sell tickets in advance… And that is what we will introduce you to now.

“Want to buy a ticket?”

The last option – which is also the safest one – is to sell tickets for your events. Here, the guest will pay for the menu/event beforehand. But in this option, you need to have a fixed price for your menu.

With this option people already paid for their food so if they don’t show up you will still get your money so you will not experience the same kind of loss as if it was a normal no-show.

Events are also a nice marketing tool that can make your restaurant more visible on social media etc.