How to Reduce No Shows

No shows are becoming more and more common in our current society with people booking tables for restaurants and then not arriving. There are many factors causing this; people being so busy that they forget they have made plans, using a booking system and then not knowing how to cancel the reservation or people thinking that as they used a booking service it doesn’t matter if they turn up or not. But to the restaurant, it does matter, a lot.

Many restaurants are introducing systems to try and reduce the number of no shows they have. These range from deposits to reminders to tickets like going to the theatre. Bristol-based sister restaurants Pasta Loco and Pasta Ripiena have introduced a deposit scheme to target their losses, as the result of 60 no-shows in one week¹.

Deposit Scheme

Some restaurants are asking for a set fee to be paid in order to hold a table’s reservation. If the customers are no shows, then the restaurant will keep that fee. Another approach is asking customers for credit card details to hold a booking and if the customer doesn’t appear taking a fee from the card. This could end up costing restaurants bookings however, as some people feel uncomfortable leaving credit card information. On the other hand it has been proven to encourage people to cancel in advance, in order to save being charged.


Many restaurants are opting for reminders to be sent to customers. The day before the reservation customers receive an email or text message confirmation of their booking. This reminds them of the booking they have made and hopefully prompts them to cancel the booking if they are no longer able to make it. Some restaurants are going a step further and calling customers to confirm in person, therefore bringing back the human interaction and not remaining a faceless click on a website.

No Reservations

For busy restaurants that get a lot of foot traffic, maybe they don’t need to take bookings at all. This would effectively eliminate all no shows. However, for smaller restaurants that don’t have passing trade this could be a risky option. Would customers in smaller towns get dressed up and go to a restaurant to potentially be turned away? Would the loss of business be greater than the loss from no shows?

Tell Your Customers

A lot of customers simply have no idea the impact a no show has on a restaurant. Some restaurants have put messages on their social media or website to help customers understand the consequences of no shows. They explain about not taking other table bookings or turning walk-ins away as they consider the reserved tables to be full. Then the loss of money when the people who booked the table don’t arrive. They inform customers it is ok if you aren’t able to make it, but please cancel the booking and let us know!

Make It Easy

If it seems like they are having to crack the Enigma code to contact a restaurant, people will not bother. Restaurants using table booking systems are seeing a drop in no shows if there is an easy ‘cancel booking’ button on their system. If it is as easy to cancel the booking as it is to make the booking in the first place, then customers are more likely to do so. Having the ‘cancel booking’ button on the confirmation email will also reduce no shows.


Some table management systems like Tock allow restaurants to sell tickets for dinner in advance, like a cinema or sports event. The ticket either covers the entire cost of the meal (if it is a taster menu) or a large portion if it is al a carte. This allows the customer to hold the table and have paid in advance for their meal. It also means that if the customer is a no show, the restaurant hasn’t lost any or much of its expected income.

So, the ability to reduce no shows is now in the hands of the restaurant. Because they can’t rely on the customer to do it!

¹ ‘How Bristol restaurants are dealing with no-shows – and what they might do next’ Laura Grogan BristolLive