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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.” 

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Amanda M. Faison

Amanda M. Faison

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