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Canceling dinner reservations could now have ‘devastating’ effects for a restaurant

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The White Lion pub seen in Covent Garden, UK.

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As countries emerge from isolation, pub and restaurant owners have one simple plea for punters: honor your reservations.

It is estimated that drinkers and diners who do not cancel before canceling a reservation would cost the UK hospitality industry £ 16 billion ($ 22.2 billion) in 2019. Now, after more than a year decrease in trade, what was once a social sin could turn out to be a poison pill.

Pubs, whose appeal lies in granting a license to let go, are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 restrictions. The UK lost more than 2,700 in January and February alone, on top of an estimated 12,000 more that research consultancy CGA estimates had to shut down for good last year. It’s more of a pub that goes bankrupt every hour.

In America, the situation is just as dire. The National Restaurant Association estimates that 110,000 food and drink places had closed for the long term – if not for good – by December 2020, with the industry losing nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars.

Among restaurants and bars, bars and taverns were the hardest hit, those that remained open saw sales fall 65% on the year.

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Even as President Joe Biden’s vaccination campaign and infrastructure plans lay the groundwork for a miracle rebound, the association says this year’s gains “will not be nearly enough” to offset the industry’s losses in Covid- 19.

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The data compiled by the booking company OpenTable bares the damage done. “Even more than ever, as restaurants reopen,” EMEA Vice President Lucy Taylor said in a statement, “it is important that we are all aware of the impact that no-shows can have.”

When customers don’t notify a pub or restaurant that they can’t make it to a reservation, the venue is left with the bag. Foursquare Group, an independent UK-based business advocacy organization, explains: “Hotel establishments use their booking information to schedule staff and ensure they have enough stock to fulfill their orders. When a customer does not arrive at the allocated reservation, it is almost impossible for a restaurant to resell that table without notice. ”

Egil Johansen, owner of The Kenton, an award-winning pub in Hackney, east London, told UKTN on a phone call about his no-show experience when English pubs briefly reopened in December.

“We were full, and on a Friday 30 people didn’t show up. We had fired people. Those no-shows were about half of our capacity in the hall,” he said.

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Johansen called the loss of business “devastating”, pointing to the habit of some punters of reserving tables at different places for the same time slot, choosing one and not canceling the others, which is particularly so. discouraging.

Despite Covid-19, around 60% of new restaurants did not last their first year before the pandemic struck. Now, the establishments that have survived are walking a fine line to keep the lights on: Following social distancing rules reduces the number of people businesses can serve and, in many cases, forces them to reduce their trading hours. .

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The sites can once again serve as small groups outside England, and there is hope the sector can recover – the latest CGA data shows nearly half of English adults have already returned to the ‘hotel business in the week following the reopening.

At Kenton, Johansen says he was “very nervous” waiting to open on April 12. The previous Monday, he built a roof over the beer garden in case visitors were put off by the city’s notoriously choppy weather.

To reduce the number of non-showers, the Foursquare group launched the #SaveMySeat campaign, calling on the public to pay a deposit when booking a table.

Louise Kissack, the group’s non-executive hospitality manager, says the goal is “to help customers understand that when your local independent restaurant asks you for a small deposit when making a reservation, it’s just their way. safeguard their business and protect their future ”.

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For its part, OpenTable also penalizes people who do not show up. Lucy Taylor explains, “Repeat offenders who do not show up for a reservation four times within 12 months are not allowed to make future reservations through the app and website.”

Johansen has taken a different approach – one he calls “a deterrent, not a deposit”. Kenton does not accept deposits when booking, but does ask for visitor card details. “No money leaves your account unless you show up,” he says. “Regulars don’t care, since they’re used to putting a card behind the bar anyway. If people really want to introduce themselves, they’ll provide their details.”

England’s reopening is still in its early stages, but when Johansen spoke to UKTN, the Kenton were at full capacity every night, with no presentations whatsoever. The first night, he says, “the mood improved.”

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However, frequenting the pub posed a problem for him. “I had to place another order with my supplier,” he laughs. “I might not be able to meet the demand any other way.”

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