Restaurant Ticketing: Why are Restaurants Making the Transition?

October 5, 2020
Clock Icon 5 min read

In the hospitality trade, it is all too common for people to make reservations and then fail to turn up for their booking, they are known as ‘restaurant no shows’. These no shows are causing a huge drain on restaurants’ resources. The planning and preparation that goes into providing a meal to customers includes preparing staff, buying stock and creating meals. To receive no recompense when diners don’t turn up is a financial burden that many restaurants simply cannot afford.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, no shows continue to be rife – with as many as 25% of bookings failing to turn up. There are many reasons why people become no shows – the main culprits being the ease with which people can make multiple bookings and a removed relationship between the customer and hospitality venue. Restaurants are therefore looking for ways to reduce the financial dilemma it can put them in. When finances are already strained, many are experimenting with a restaurant ticketing system as a potential solution. 

Empty restaurant dining room set up ready for diners

What is Restaurant Ticketing?

When it first emerged, restaurant ticketing involved selling seats, usually in high-end restaurants. Diners would pay the full amount for the cost of their food, per diner in the party. This meant that restaurants would receive payment of the food when the booking was made. Any further charges, such as drinks and tips, would be settled at the end of the customer’s meal. Incorporating this approach slashed no show rates to practically zero and gave restaurants consistency in both number of diners and in revenue. However, it could alienate potential customers and the system did receive some criticism. 

Since then, the ticket revolution has evolved and now works for diners and venues alike. Each venue tends to have a different approach to ticketing depending on their business needs. Ticketing can mean paying full price for your meal upfront, or it could be a deposit of a nominal amount per person. Some restaurants don’t take a prepayment but instead will securely store a customer’s card details when they make their reservation. Then, in the event that they fail to show, the card will be charged to cover costs. This approach must be stated and agreed upon at the time of booking. 

Couple sit in home making an online payment

For the restaurant owner, ticketing helps them to calculate how busy the restaurant is going to be in advance. It also gives them the option of lowering their prices for ‘off peak’ dining times, and allows them to target offerings for different times. For customers, they get options, a guaranteed seat at the table, and knowledge they are supporting their favourite restaurants. This will help prevent no shows, something which continues to be a major problem in what is an increasingly precarious industry. 

You may wonder what the importance of a ticketing system is, and why more people are discussing it now. No doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on the hospitality industry and how they manage their bookings. Taking reservations in hospitality has become an integral part of a venue’s duty to maintaining customers’ safety. Likewise, extending the capability of the reservation system to take pre-payments will become an integral part of a venue’s ability to protect themselves in uncertain times. Selling tickets to their establishment is therefore one way that venues can prevent no shows.

Woman makes payment with card over the internet

How Does a Ticketing System Work to Prevent No Shows?

The ticketing system has shown time and time again that when diners risk losing their money, they are less likely to fail to show up for their booking. There is no doubt that restaurants are relying on financial support from customers, especially in the wake of the pandemic. As such, a restaurant should take any steps they can to protect their bottom line and their existence.

To implement a ticketing system, restaurants should carefully research what would work best for them and their establishment. There are numerous online platforms that will work to help maximise the clientele. The best known apps are Opentable and Tock, but restaurants can decide themselves how to, and when to, take a payment from customers. It is standard practice for any pre-payment taken to be deducted from the final bill once guests have finished their meals.

As restaurants reopened in July after the lockdown, demand was high for tables. Unfortunately, too many restaurants had no shows as guests simply never arrived. Several chefs and restaurateurs felt the need to call out those who had not attended the restaurants they booked at, who took the time to prepare for their arrival. Celebrity chef Tom Kerridge took to Instagram to vent his anger, calling out by name the 27 no shows at his restaurant in London.

This led to the hashtag #nomorenoshows trending on Twitter as a campaign got off the ground, reasoning with customers and imploring them to cancel when they had no intention to honour their booking. Of course, not all no shows are as simple as the customer just changing their mind, and businesses would be wise to consider cancellations on a case by case basis.

Man takes reservation for restaurant over the phone

If your restaurant uses ticketing, remember that it is just as important to build a strong relationship with the customer. Establishing a connection goes a long way in preventing no shows. Therefore, don’t forget to make contact with the guest to confirm their booking, and if it is an advance booking, contact them again nearer the date to remind them of attendance and to confirm the number of guests. This gives you an opportunity to speak with the guests, and confirm any necessary changes to their reservation. 

What’s the Importance of a Ticketing System Following COVID-19?

Many establishments have been forced to reduce the number of covers they can offer inside their venue following the COVID-19 pandemic. Seats and tables have been reduced by 50% in most places to comply with social distancing measures, and making sure the business is COVID-secure. Consequently, each guest is valued more and more by the restaurant, and by the workers there who depend on them for their jobs.  

  • Cancellations and no shows cost the industry an incredible £16 billion a year
  • A huge 25% of online bookings are no shows. 

Historically, restaurants might have overbooked to counter the no shows, but with bar spaces and holding areas removed due to the pandemic, this is no longer feasible. Restaurants are now almost entirely reliant on bookings, as walk in numbers have fallen dramatically due to the pandemic. As a result of COVID-19, businesses are forced to operate within incredibly tight margins.

close up of a screen showing a restaurant booking system

What Do Our Experts Say About Ticketing Systems?

Clearly, restaurants are in a position where they are relying on bookings to keep the business going. However, it is important to note that some customers will have genuine reasons for not attending. 

Our hospitality expert Jamie Hogg advises: “Bear in mind that some people will have been told to self isolate, and so will have no choice but to cancel their reservation. For businesses not to lose customers and important revenue, they should consider honouring the booking for another time and allow the customer to transfer their ticket. Gestures of goodwill go a long way in this industry, and social media is there to cause damage when things aren’t handled so well.”

Based on my own experience in the industry, I believe it comes down to three things. Firstly, hospitality venues need to be a bit more demanding of their customers – without their support they simply won’t survive and no one wants to see restaurants disappear. Secondly, restaurants should be a bit more flexible and work with their customers should tickets need amending. Thirdly, customers need to respect the struggles the industry is facing, and do what they can to support them. We need to work together to get through this. Whether the restaurant adopts a ticketing system or not – be kind, be considerate, be safe.


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Hospitality