With the hospitality industry almost crippled by the prolonged shutdowns, Kiwis are being encouraged to support their favourite venues by having better table manners.

Restaurant no-shows have escalated since pre-COVID – a trend that could destroy some restaurants and bars when operating under restrictions.

What may just be a simple oversight for many, costs venues hundreds of thousands of dollars a week when the hospitality industry is already near-crippled by the impact of COVID-19.

Data from online reservation platform ResDiary reveals people’s failure to cancel bookings and not show up, has sky-rocketed by up to 300 per cent in 2021 compared to 2019, resulting in huge financial losses.

It is anticipated the Level 2 capacity easement after weeks of restrictions, will see a surge in Kiwis wanting to dine out. However, if the trend for escalating no-shows continues, it will mean those tables that have been held for reservations will result in lost revenue for restaurateurs desperately needing to recoup lockdown losses.

“Something as simple as not taking the time to cancel has real consequences,” Rebecca Zeitunian, Head of Brand and B2B Growth at ResDiary, says.

“The hospitality industry is already struggling to recover from the impact of lockdowns during the pandemic, so losing money because people don’t bother to cancel a booking has a huge effect on their business.

“Some in the industry have lost an average of more than 5 per cent of their bookings to ‘no-shows’. Even one table of eight can have real impact. This has prompted many venues to instigate credit-card bookings and deposits for group reservations and premium occasions.

It may well be that this becomes standard practice across all bookings. It is commonplace in Australia and may be what is needed to protect New Zealand’s hospo industry.”

ResDiary table management software enables restaurants to contact diners who have made bookings – through customised texts or email – to remind them of the booking and provide an easy cancellation method, to mitigate the propensity for no-shows. It also accepts credit card bookings and deposits for online reservations.

Restaurateur Nic Watt takes credit card bookings for group reservations and premium occasions, with a fee for no-shows or last-minute cancellations. He would support an industry move to ensure consistency.

“If it is an industry approach great, I suspect individual restaurants would be mindful of not putting off any customers after these past few months.”

Watt has experienced first-hand the impact of thoughtless diners not bothering to cancel. He cites a group booking of 18 people on a Saturday night not turning up, meaning hundreds of dollars lost, and on another occasion four people failing to arrive for a “counter dining” experience that had a bespoke degustation menu and specifically-sourced ingredients.

“We have been caught out. I remember calling one large booking that hadn’t arrived to be told the dog was sick. Now we take a 50 per cent deposit for special events – it’s refundable up to 48 hours before, as that gives us enough time to try to resell those seats.”

Watt mitigates no-shows at Akarana Eatery and Inca by using ResDiary’s automated reservation reminders in the days leading up to the booking.

“It’s going to be a very tough one for hospitality coming out of this lockdown. Even to try to trade in Level Two is going to be near impossible given there is a current staff shortage. To have known bookings is hugely helpful for the business.”

Zeitunian encourages New Zealanders to book tables – even those for Auckland restaurants currently unable to operate – as it helps kitchens plan.

“And it will be a morale boost for Auckland venues to see bookings coming in for the end of this year, it will be something for those who are financially struggling to see the support they have from diners.”

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