‘No shows’ – where people book a table but then don’t turn up, without letting the restaurant know in advance – has been a problem in the hospitality industry for some time, with an estimated 25% of online bookings simply not turning up.

Now, at a time when restaurants need our support more than ever, the effect is crippling for struggling businesses already having to run at a reduced capacity having been closed for months.

But a new campaign – #NoMoreNoShows – is set to launch in Manchester this week to stop the devastating effects of customers not turning up to bar and restaurant bookings, as hospitality operators reveal that the issue is costing the sector £16bn a year.

As food and drink businesses slowly try to get back on their feet following the devastating effects of Covid-19, hospitality bosses are warning that the ‘no shows’ could prove to be just as crippling as the global pandemic itself.  

Even just a small number of diners not honouring bookings can mean the difference between business success or failure, they say.

New Manchester campaign aims to stop restaurant no shows I Love Manchester

Michelin starred chef Tom Kerridge recently branded ‘no show’ diners “selfish” at a time when the industry is in crisis, and warned that it could lead to job losses: “YOU are putting peoples jobs more at risk….. we put staff levels to the number of covers booked and when you fail to turn up, it now costs us, which in turn will force very uncomfortable and hard decisions about staffing levels.”

Recent viral tweets from well-known Manchester operators have highlighted the need for action, and Gusto’s managing director Matt Snell revealed that more than 800 diners did not turn up during their first four days of reopening, equating to a loss of more than £20,000 in sales.

Now Sixty Eight People, a hospitality recruitment consultancy, along with Antonia Lallement from Gusto Italian, are unveiling their #NoMoreNoShows campaign in Greater Manchester in an attempt to spread awareness of the issue among consumers, in the hope that it will spark a change in behaviour.  

New Manchester campaign aims to stop restaurant no shows I Love Manchester

“Our beloved hospitality industry is fighting for its life after the catastrophic events of the last three months,” says Abi Dunn of hospitality recruitment business Sixty Eight People.

“We are slowly getting back on our feet, but let’s be blunt – with already reduced capacity we simply won’t survive if the current level of no shows continue. 

“British people tend to feel embarrassed about cancelling. We want to say it’s OK to cancel, in fact you’re helping us out!

“In no other area of business is it acceptable to renege on a contract in this way. We have to change the way people behave and the notion that no shows are acceptable.

“Greater Manchester is a metropolis of bars, dining, coffee hang outs, gastronomic delights and nights to remember. Please help them all stay open!” 

New Manchester campaign aims to stop restaurant no shows I Love Manchester

Taking deposits in advance, refundable if the booking is cancelled with sufficient notice, has been suggested by many as a way to prevent ‘no shows’, but Thom Hetherington, CEO of Northern Restaurant & Bar, believes that a more flexible approach is necessary – and that Manchester is perfectly placed to lead the way.

“A ‘one-size fits all’ approach of deposits or similar won’t work for every restaurant, and the brilliance of this campaign is that it isn’t prescriptive, it leaves spaces for individual operators to put their own processes in place,” says Thom.

“‘No showing’ has to become socially and morally unacceptable behaviour amongst diners everywhere. It damages businesses and can cost peoples’ jobs, and no one should want to have that on their conscience.

“With a large but close-knit hospitality industry, including some very powerful voices, I think Manchester is perfectly placed to lead the charge with a campaign for no more no shows.”

The messaging of the campaign is clear – that it’s okay to cancel or rearrange a booking, but you just need to let the restaurant know in advance.

“As the hospitality sector slowly starts to reopen, many are operating at a reduced capacity,” says Night Time Economy Adviser Sacha Lord.

“We already know how tight margins are with restaurants, but sadly over the last couple of weeks, many operators are reporting no shows on bookings.

“With the sector already on its knees, we need to support the industry and help wherever we can.

“If you want to cancel your booking, that’s totally fine, but please let the restaurant know, the earlier the better, so that they can rebook your table.”

If you are interested in supporting the campaign, email hello@sixtyeightpeople.com or DM any of Sixty Eight People’s social channels to receive the information you need for Thursday’s 10am social media ‘thunderclap’ to raise awareness.

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