- Online reservations platform OpenTable has brought its Book Responsibly feature, which generates input from customers who do not show up for their restaurant reservations, to the United Kingdom. According to iNews, the campaign is an attempt to help the restaurant sector rectify the costly issue of no shows. The initiative launched in the U.S. in 2017, according to SF Gate.
- OpenTable has set up notification reminders to help consumers remember their reservations, as forgetfulness is cited as the top reason for abandoned reservations.
- For serial no-shows, OpenTable has gone a step further — prohibiting consumers from using the website and app if they fail to honor a reservation four times within 12 months.
The impact of no-shows for restaurants is significant. If a restaurant is anticipating a two-party reservation that doesn't show, and the average ticket per person is about $80, for example, that is a loss of nearly $200 for just that table. A London restaurant owner told iNews that his concept turns over tables up to three times a night, so such no-shows add up quick.
No-shows can also create reputational damage. If a table is empty during peak hours, it can impact other diners' perceptions. There's also a staffing piece that restaurant operators have to contend with. If a restaurant anticipates a certain number of diners on any given night, it will staff accordingly. If those customers don't show up, some of those staff members will have to be sent home, with less money in their pockets than anticipated.
With its ban, OpenTable shows that it is actively trying to help the industry overcome the issue of no-shows. It's also a savvy PR move likely to win restaurants' favor. OpenTable's features could also appeal to consumers, as the app sends reminder notifications to diners, acting as a sort of concierge. In a survey of close to 2,000 British adults, the reservation platform found that forgetfulness is one of the main reasons for no-shows, and that others also blamed not knowing how to cancel a reservation.
OpenTable could be making up for its potential culpability with the trend of no-shows. In its early days some industry experts pointed to online reservation sites as the main contributor of abandoned tables by removing the traditional formality of the booking process. But other online reservation services — at least in Australia — have taken the same approach, directly banning no-shows from booking reservations. The continent's biggest booking platform, Dimmi, blacklisted almost 40,000 guests for not appearing at their reservations in 2017.
Of course, OpenTable could be taking a bit of a risk with its no-show policy, as well as its feature that prohibits diners from booking more than one time slot (or within 2 and a half hours of that slot). Consumers might feel policed when they just want to keep their dining options open for the night or when they simply can't help but abandon their reservations for an emergency or anything else that may abruptly come up. On the other hand, it could help it win the trust of more restaurants and lure businesses away from a growing contingent of competitors, such as Resy and Eat24.