No-shows are costing the industry 17bn, survey finds

Since we emerged from the first national lockdown last July, bookings have become commonplace within the hospitality industry. This is because they make it easier for restaurants and bars to comply with social distancing guidelines, and ensure that business owners are able to make the most out of the space they have available to them.

As restrictions eased in April 2021, they were an influx of bookings of all types. For months afterwards, it was almost impossible to walk into a venue without a booking and get a seat – whilst this is more normal within the restaurant sector, the popularity of such systems for pubs, bars, and even cafés, was almost unprecedented.

This might seem like good news for an industry that has been wrestling with an onslaught of restrictions, closures, and lockdowns, over the past eighteen months. However, often these bookings are not translating into profit for businesses simply because customers are not honouring their bookings. According to new research from hospitality technology firm Zonal and data consultancy CGA, one in seven customers have failed to turn on for their reservation without informing the venue since April 2021.

The survey, which approached over 5,000 members of the general public, found that 28% of under 25s have failed to make a reservation without warning the venue beforehand. In comparison, just 1% of over 55-year-olds admitted to having done the same. Although it is true that more young people are frequent bookers within the hospitality and nightlife industries, the statistics are still shocking. Reasons for the no-shows included a sudden change of plan or somebody in the group cancelling – 19% of those asked admitted to these reasons for their cancellation. Other regular explanations included someone in a group falling ill with Covid-19 symptoms, forgetting about a booking, or the weather putting a customer off.

Calculations point towards customers who don’t turn up to hospitality reservations without telling the venue costing the hospitality industry £17.6bn per year. Henri Jooste, strategic product manager at Zonal, said: “Bookings are a crucial part of the customer journey – so it’s important that operators continue to proactively find solutions that help customers manage their reservations. While the pandemic has prompted a new-found appreciation and understanding of hospitality among many consumers, there is still more to be done in encouraging them to always honour their booking or tell the venue in advance.”

He added: “Technology can support and streamline this process, enhancing communication between operators and guests that ultimately helps to strengthen loyalty and reduce the chances of no-shows occurring. As the sector emerges from the crisis, we believe a revitalised relationship between operators and their customers is key to a sustainable recovery.”

These figures are vast, and they are hitting an industry that has already suffered many blows over the last eighteen months. If consumers take personal responsibility for their engagement with businesses, both independent and larger companies, then we can begin to rebuild the industry from the ground up.

Words by Rebecca Clayton