The Four Biggest Consequences of No-Shows
No-shows are one of the worst pains that restaurants experience every day. But just one no-show can start a ripple effect in the restaurant’s delicate set-up. We’ve spoken to some of the best chefs in Scandinavia to try and figure out where the happy medium lies between restaurants and guests when it comes to no-shows. See what Matt Orlando, Mikael Svensson, Esben Holmboe Bang, Joel Åhlin, Rene Mammen, Sven Jensen and Karlos Ponte have to say about the consequences of not showing up for your reservation and let’s find out what we can do to reconcile with the industry as a whole.
Considering the Consequences
In an attempt to eliminate this no-show culture a number of the best restaurants in the business has started to take credit card details when guests make a reservation. Our chefs all agree that it’s nothing new and you do it everywhere else. Mikael Svensson of Kontrast in Oslo explains: “If you’re booking a hotel room, your movie tickets, your opera tickets, I mean everything you’re buying or planning to do, you have to give away your credit card details or just buy it straight up.” But this has not become an industry standard just yet when it comes to the restaurant business.
But let’s face it, most of us have done a no-show sometime or another. Unfortunate, but we have to admit it. Whether it’s a restaurant booking, movie tickets, dental visit or maybe a hair appointment we’ve missed, we’ve all done it. And by definition that creates a culture of acceptance when it comes to no-shows. But did we think about the consequences of our no-show? Probably not.
There’s a definite frustration around the culture as a whole. Matt Orlando points out that:
“It is a very selfish act to commit to something then back out without taking into consideration the consequences of your actions. It is crazy how dis-attached people are from the concept. If people knew or cared about the amount of work that it takes to run a restaurant, this would happen less often.”
Why do we feel like it’s okay to just stay away when something comes in the way for us? We seem to have a way of justifying our actions as a coping mechanism, which in itself can be a healthy thing in terms of stress-control, but when we’re gambling with other people’s livelihood, it’s hard to justify that we’re just looking out for ‘number one’.
But hey, we get it. Shit happens! What makes a difference is how you handle it. To put things in perspective, let’s take a trip to South Korea, where one of the worst no-shows in the history of no-shows happened in 2017. A construction company made a reservation for 400 people (!!) at a restaurant and decided not to show up – not once, not twice, but three times! This, understandably, went viral as the biggest no-show of recent history and sparked a movement in Korea named #noshownochef, where the focus was on the damage that chefs experienced with no-shows and the service industry in general.
But even with the media coverage and the movement, the restauranteur commented: “Honestly, the customer is king and we are in a lesser position. For the situationally weaker to confront the stronger and insist ‘Please have a little respect for the rules’ is not easy. If customers are offended, they can always go somewhere else,” he said. While most restaurants won’t experience no-shows of this caliber, the no-show issue still remains and haunts restaurants like a silent killer.
And no, we’re definitely not saying that you’re singlehandedly killing your favorite restaurants. It takes more than one no-show – or does it? Matt Orlando explains:
“When one person doesn’t show up, then we potentially lose between 1200DKK-1800DKK. If you do the math and see how tight our profit margins are then we can easily go from making money to losing money.”
Sven Jensen elaborates: “When you have a full restaurant, you need two sommeliers on shift, and then two tables don’t show up. Then I can’t just call my sommelier with two hours notice and say that he shouldn’t come to work. Then he’ll have a loss of earnings of several thousand kroner but I, as a restaurant owner, will have lost 10.000 kroner in both personnel costs and loss of revenue, because the guests haven’t shown up. The guest doesn’t see that. Especially for us, who don’t get walk-ins, it hits even harder.”
Losing this kind of revenue on a weekly basis can kill any restaurant. In reality, it’s a tough balance between having the guest experience at the forefront and also running your restaurant as a legitimate business for our chefs. As Karlos Ponte of Restaurant PMY in Copenhagen says: “It’s a business, you just forget it sometimes. It’s too romantic in a sense. Sometimes you just fall so much in love with the concept that you forget that you have to run a business.
The Ripple Effect
Like rings in the water, a no-show can affect the entire restaurant. Have you ever considered that a no-show affects:
1) The Economy
We might not realize it (or maybe we simply ignore that we know this fact) but all of our chefs recognize the economic factor as one of the most fatal consequences of not showing up to a dinner reservation, just like Mikael Svensson described. Not all restaurants have a waiting list they can contact, and the ones that do, won’t be guaranteed to fill the spot at such short notice. Even the high profile restaurants are having a rough time with getting the business side of the restaurant to run smoothly. As Matt Orlando puts it: “We all operate with such a small profit margin, that when 6 guests don’t show up and this happens repeatedly it really affects the bottom line. It is the difference between making money and losing money.”
2) The Food Waste
But the consequences go deeper than the economy. Joel Åhlin of Agrikultur in Stockholm explains: “We prep all of our food for our guests, so if someone doesn’t show up, then we have food left, which is not 100% good the day after, so we cannot use it. Everything we prep is very detailed and there’s a lot of work behind it. And that’s beside the economics; a lot of time has been dedicated to the guest. There’s like two chefs prepping from 9 o’clock in the morning to 5 in the afternoon, then the service shift comes in. It’s hours of work and just misuse of craftsmanship.”
3) Experience for other guests
All of the chefs that we spoke to in regard to no-shows agreed upon another sad consequence that not showing up has. Joel Åhlin elaborates: “When people don’t show up, it’s blocking the way for other people who want to come. Today, Valentines Day, we have 112 people on the waiting list and we only have 24 seats. That’s what I get the most frustrated about because there’s always a waiting list when there are no-shows. And hey, these four people could have gone instead of you, but you decided to make a no-show.”
4) The Culture/Passion/Mood
Imagine how you feel if you are planning to have dinner guests over and they don’t show up. That’s not a nice feeling, right? Probably wouldn’t want to invite people back if they did that. Now imagine having people not show every week. Karlos Ponte explains how he as a chef, co-owner and manager gets affected: “I get angry at the people who don’t show up and then it might end up with me being a bit stressed, which again can affect the rest of the staff. But I think it affects the entire restaurant.” Rene Mammen of Substans in Aarhus adds: “It’s completely disrespectful when you’ve spent an entire day preparing to give these guests a certain experience and then they just don’t show up without notice… A complete mood killer.”
The Other Side of the Matter
So from the restaurants’ points of view, it’s a matter of ‘either they don’t know or they just don’t care’ that can explain the no-show rates in the business. But what do the guests actually say about not showing up? We’ve spoken to some people who have admitted to having done a no-show or two in their lifetime. They say that they actually don’t even know why it doesn’t feel that wrong. They don’t think about it. And that does seem to be the number one explanation on this issue: We don’t think about it. And isn’t that strange? That’s we’ve become so used to it having no direct consequences to us that we actually behave in a way that we would not behave towards anybody else?
But hey, let’s not be complete buzzkills here. We can definitely do something about this issue together. But how? Well, some of the best restaurants in the world have already united in the fight against no-shows by acquiring a system that allows them to require credit card details from guests when they’re making a reservation. This movement is powered by knowledge and education on the subject, hopefully creating awareness of and focus on the no-show culture (yes, you reading this blog post is the first step in the right direction). Starting by letting you know that it’s not dangerous to cancel – the restaurants won’t get mad at you if you call or e-mail. They will, however, get angry if you just stay away – wouldn’t you?
In general, the cancellation policies seem to be rather reasonable, even with the adaptation of a no-show fee or deposit. At Kontrast, Mikael Svensson says: “We have a pretty generous cancellation policy, for example, if you have a normal table and it’s not a big party, then you can cancel until 2 o’clock. Say, if you wake up sick the same morning, then you have the chance to cancel.” Karlos Ponte adds:
“It does happen that we one evening will have some cancellations, where people call an hour before their reservation and say that they can’t come. But we can understand – it’s much better than just not showing up… that’s fine because then we at least have the opportunity to do something about it.”
In reality, calling to cancel your reservation if you’re not going to use it, should be as easy as the phrase ‘always use a protection’, when we’re about to get it on with someone or ‘brush your teeth twice a day’ when we’re about to go to bed. So whenever you’ve got a reservation at a restaurant (or dentist or hairdresser for that matter), it’ll become a natural part of how you know you should behave (we’re realistic, we know you don’t always remember to brush your teeth before bed, you saucy minx!)
Reaching the Happy Medium
So, now you know. There’s really no excuses when it comes to justifying doing a no-show. Some of you might be thinking ‘Well, I never don’t show up! I would never! Who does that? An agreement is an agreement!’ If you’re one of these people, we would first of all like to thank you and next remind you to speak up about the subject when you’re with friends and family, because as it happens, it’s not a rare way to behave, unfortunately – and we can change that together. Did you know that in Sweden you get fined SEK 300 if you don’t show up to a doctor’s appointment? Sven Jensen taught us that. So let’s join the best chefs and restaurants in the business in fighting no-shows, on both sides of the cause, by standing up, spreading the word and creating the happy medium between happy guests and happy restaurants. Yes, we’re aware how ‘Kumbaya’ it sounds but the world does need some unity and understanding right about now. You will be fighting for a good cause and at least be helping your favorite restaurants and its employees stay in business – and that has to be one of the best incentives to start keeping your word, right?