No-Shows, Be Gone!

Ah the old ‘No Show’ debate. In reality we have had a situation with ‘no shows’ in hospitality ever since I can remember. I’ve conducted sales audits on businesses and in most cases the audit uncovers an incredibly high ‘no-show’ rate with few processes in place to minimise its impact. We all know the repercussions for our sector when this happens. For me it’s obvious. I’d rather have 50% less customers who all turn up than overinflated pre-booked sales where I’m lucky if 30% show up. To put a more positive spin on it: minimising ‘no shows’ means more cash, accurate financial forecasting and (more importantly) a far better guest experience which encourages loyalty and repeat business. 

I understand some nervousness around introducing deposits and fears about putting customers off. But that was before Covid. That was before we have seen – in my view -the most rapid change in consumer behaviour in such a short time. Do I really believe a customer will book elsewhere because we ask for £5pp or £20 per table to secure a booking when it’s redeemable? No I don’t. Not anymore. And especially when competition is so high and margins lower, so we need to ask customers to make a conscious decision to support our sector by deciding in advance where they want to go, rather than booking 2 or 3 places and only turning up to 1…

 If the whole sector agrees to tackle ‘no shows’ in the same way, and to implement a deposit system, then the issue will resolve itself to everyone’s satisfaction. We must all come together and agree to offset the financial damage caused to our industry through social distancing and limited capacity by taking deposits for pre-bookings. This action alone will go a long way to reassuring our staff, protect revenue, and give us the confidence to up-sell packages and experiences. By all means allow the undecided to walk-in where feasible, but protecting our advanced bookings will have a beneficial impact on everyone involved in bringing the best of our hospitality service to increasing numbers over time, and with the ability to forecast our staffing and other resource levels for maximum efficiency.

Our sector prides itself on providing customers with truly wonderful memories and experiences with their friends and loved ones. We are there to serve them, and as such, we are givers, now more than ever. Living with Covid we must remember the impact this has had on everyone and – for many – with truly devastating results. This goes for staff working in the industry too, vulnerable but now expected to deliver a first-class service to others. Building confidence and loyalty amongst staff feeds through to your customer base, for which close working relationships need to be built and sustained. Now more than ever my ingrained philosophy of building these relationships over the long term will be critical to your success. 

The 'No More No Shows' campaign by Sixty Eight People that got everyone talking!

Systems and processes have an important part to play, but for me, securing sales and improving guest loyalty requires the quality of your relationship to be scrutinised and put centre stage. Our customers should be treated as close friends or family. Treated in this way all customers, even newly acquired ones, would consider you as a friend and phone ahead if necessary, to apologise in advance for not being able to maintain their booking commitment. There is no reason why every venue should not adopt this approach, small or large. My job at Bums on Seats is increasingly to help established sales teams or individuals to acquire the skills to build and capitalise on these important relationships, without which hospitality cannot reduce ‘no shows’ substantially and go on to grow the bottom line through repeat business, new revenue streams, and ongoing customer loyalty. It is perfectly feasible with the right guidance, training and support to achieve a ‘no show’ rate of less than 10%, followed by accurate pre-bookings and more advance spending through up-selling packages and bolt-on’s. This investment is needed – and justifiable – now more than ever. 

A summary at this juncture might be helpful. Start by pulling together to invest now in the right booking system for online payments, pre-orders and packages . Re-write your terms and conditions to reflect your own Brand culture and language, and include a commitment to refund the deposit if a customer cancels within 24 hours of the event/table. Use SMS texts (where affordable) or personal calls which are proven to work by prompting customers and helping to avoid ‘no shows’, as well as building up a crucial relationship which encourages loyalty. By treating your customer as a Friend, and making it easier for them to cancel if they have to, you will have put your business back on the front foot and can look forward with increasing confidence. I am now setting out the Bums on Seats approach to these challenges.

Strategy:  No More ‘No Shows’!
  • Effective booking system for online payments/deposits integrated with your tills.
  • Reminder SMS texts with an easy to use cancellation link.
  • Website booking journey kept simple, clear and decisive.
  • Decide your deposit amount and think differently: £20.00 or £25.00 per table/area or £5pp (my preference is table deposits now).  
  • Deposits all refundable – no quibble – unless cancelled within 24 hours.
  • Transparent and clear T&Cs in your tone of voice; why do we take deposits, and how as a customer do I get my money back when I turn up?
  • Consistent messaging and approach.
  • Focus on your customer relationships to drive loyalty. 
  • Provide an excellent customer service when booking.
  • Confirmation calls and follow-up calls to keep personable interactions with your customers going.

Amber has enjoyed a varied and fulfilling career over 20 years, and ultimately formed ‘Bums on Seats’ in January 2019, which is dedicated to bringing flair, innovation and drive to improvements in customer experience and greater profitability yo UK wide Operators.

Amber has built genuine relationships within the sector, with an eye for spotting opportunities to make a difference and continues to be the ‘go to’ person in her field with the ability to spot trends and deliver improvements across the board for her clients.

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