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April 16, 2019

Media sources yesterday were reporting that high profile Parisian restaurants have finally resorted to charging all guests a chunky deposit which they would forfeit if they didn't show up for their booking or cancelled it at short notice.

According to The Times, The Tour d'Argent has started charging dinner customers €200 a head in an effort to stop no-shows.

Not many UK-based restaurants would dare charge that sort of deposit but no-shows are a problem which is all too familiar to UK chefs and restaurateurs. Last year, Mark Greenaway (we'll cover his imminent new project Grazing in a later blog) hit the headlines when he announced that in the run-up to Christmas his eponymous Edinburgh restaurant had been hit with 399 cancellations and 51 no-shows.

More recently, we mentioned last week that Haar restaurant in St Andrews had a table of eight that didn't turn up on the restaurant's first night in business.

Slap in the face

If you are a restaurateur who has put their heart and soul into launching their own place, it's hard to imagine a more insulting slap in the face.

Providing that the customer gives sufficient notice, restaurants can deal with cancellations. At busy times, they can rebook those tables or adjust their supply order.

However if a table of eight doesn't turn up and that table remains empty on a Saturday night, the missing revenue can wipe out any profits that might have been generated by all the other bookings.

Restaurant margins are tight and it doesn't take much to tip the balance sheet into red.

One report put the cost of no-shows in the UK at £16 million a year and it is estimated that, in big cities, one in five diners won't turn up for their reservation.

As far as restaurateurs are concerned, there is a special place in the blast freezer for customers that book several restaurants and then decide which one they will grace with their presence on the night.

Not every restaurant helps themselves

However, not all restaurants help themselves. Not every place lists their phone number clearly or makes it easy to cancel a booking by other means.

Some restaurants take the precaution of contacting pre-booked customers on the day of their meal or the day before. This reminder works in a dining room with a small number of covers. It is less practical for a restaurant with a high volume of bookings.

Of course, bookings made with 5pm Dining can be conveniently cancelled online - a feature which makes life easier for diners and chefs alike.

And 5pm's simpleERB reservations system has several ways to help restaurants reduce no-shows.

What do you think? Should chefs just suck up no-shows and accept them as the price of doing business in a crowded market?

Or would you, as a customer, be happy to pay a deposit on booking?