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The issue of no-shows is ongoing but, like most things in the industry, it’s become even more financially painful as margins get thinner by the day. TouchBistro, a Canadian POS system, outlines the problem succinctly: Assuming that 50 percent of a restaurant’s average nightly volume comes from reservations and the average spend per guest is $30 (on the low end), a 10 percent no-show rate is the equivalent of $1,000 a week. 

Most of us know the cost is a lot higher. In fact, OpenTable recently reported that in the past year, 30 percent of surveyed Americans didn’t show up for a reservation. So, aside from wishing guests would be more accountable, what’s an operator to do? 

Many spots have moved to accepting walk-ins only; others now only accept reservations secured by a credit card. The risk of alienating customers is one worth taking. “It’s a 15 to 18 percent loss annually with no shows,” says Austin Carson, co-owner of the tiny Restaurant Olivia in Denver’s Washington Park. “We charge a $25 reservation fee. There’s been pushback here and there, but people are starting to get used to it.” 

Talk to us! Email your experiences (and thoughts, opinions, and questions—anything, really) to askus@diningout.com

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