6 min read

How to Combat the No-Show Epidemic in Your Restaurant: Pro Tips and Tactics

November 09, 2023


How to Combat the No-Show Epidemic in Your Restaurant: Pro Tips and Tactics

Imagine preparing a sumptuous feast, setting the stage for a bustling evening, only to be stood up by the guests of honor. In the restaurant world, this isn't just disappointing—it's costly. In urban dining scenes, a staggering 20% of diners may abandon their reservations without a whisper of cancellation. With the hospitality industry recovering from upheavals of the pandemic, every seat filled is a step towards recovery. British restaurants alone grapple with a £16 billion annual blow due to no-shows, a startling figure unveiled by a 2015 survey.

So, why are no-shows a big deal in the restaurant industry?

Restaurants operate on a delicate balance of supply and demand. They prepare food, allocate staff, and manage resources based on anticipated customer turnout. When diners no-show, this balance is disrupted, leading to wasted food, idle staff, and lost revenue. In an industry that often operates on razor-thin margins, the financial impact of no-shows can be devastating.

But why is the no-show trend on the rise?

The cause of the recent increase in no-shows is still unclear, but our research suggests that these related factors may be contributing to the problem.

1. Increase in concurrent bookings at multiple restaurants. Couples and groups are increasingly booking multiple restaurants at the same time, and deciding which one to go to shortly before the reservation is due. Cancellations are often last-minute, if at all.

2.  The culture of convenience: People are increasingly looking for convenient and hassle-free dining experiences, which may lead to more no-shows if people find a more convenient option at the last minute.

3. Online booking eliminates human interaction from the reservation process. The human touch from the reservation process has been eliminated, making guests less likely to care about the impact of their no-shows.

4. No Reminders: If the restaurant does not send out reminder calls, texts, or emails, reservations might slip the customers' minds, especially if they were made well in advance.

Your Game Plan to Tackle No-Shows:

Fear not, restaurateurs! We've gathered wisdom from culinary titans and distilled their insights into a potent recipe for combating no-shows:

1.     Prepaid Reservations: The Upfront Commitment

Taking prepaid reservations, or tickets, is another effective way to reduce no-shows. By requiring upfront payment, the likelihood of customers honoring their reservations increases significantly. People who have invested their money are more likely to follow through with their commitment. This approach not only helps mitigate the problem of no-shows, but it also provides financial security for the restaurant by receiving full payment in advance.

For example, Restaurant Kamran in France has successfully implemented this strategy with the help of Hyteno. The restaurant owner was initially hesitant, but he found that customers were willing to prepay for their meals, which resulted in increased attendance and reduced no-shows.

2.     The Blacklist Tactic: Holding Repeat Offenders Accountable

Restaurants can track and monitor guests who frequently miss their reservations. If necessary, they may also blacklist these guests. Although this may seem harsh, no-shows can have a significant financial impact on restaurants. Maintaining and enforcing a blacklist can be time-consuming and difficult, but it is an effective way to deal with habitual no-show guests. Presently, numerous service providers offer services for tracking and analyzing no-show data.

3.     Overbooking: A Calculated Risk

If you are still experiencing high no-show rates after introducing other measures then it may be worth considering this controversial approach of overbooking. If you decide to pursue this path, it is advisable to develop a comprehensive strategy for managing overbookings in case all reserved diners decide to attend.

4.     Cancellation Fees: A Deterrent with Discretion

In an effort to reduce losses from no-shows and late cancellations, restaurants can ask for credit card information at the time of reservation and charge a fee if guests fail to show up or  cancel after the designated deadline.Restaurants can typically charge no-show and late cancellation fees per person based on their expected lost revenue.Partial no-shows, where fewer guests than expected show up for a reservation, may also be subject to fees.

For cancellation fees, restaurants typically can set a notice period of 24 or 48 hours and charge accordingly. However, they may waive these fees if they are able to fill the reservation with another booking or walk-in. Finally, a cancellation policy should allow for some flexibility to accommodate guests who have emergencies or other similar reasons for needing to cancel. When in doubt, restaurants should consider each incident on a case-by-case basis.

5.    Compulsory confirmation

Restaurants may already use their booking system to send out reminder emails or text messages 24 or 48 hours before a reservation, but they can go a step further by requiring guests to actively confirm their reservation at this time. This is best done over the phone, but can also be done via email. Restaurants can also use this confirmation to double-check any dietary requirements.

This approach can be time-consuming, especially for small restaurants, so it may be best to limit

its use to larger events and occasions. That, or consider making use of booking software that Hyteno provides to help you streamline the process.

6.    Incentivize Punctuality: Rewarding the Reliable

Another easy way to encourage people to arrive on time and not cancel their reservations is to reward them for respecting their commitment. Giving them free dessert, a voucher for their next visit, or, most importantly, an excellent dining experience will help to reduce the number of no-shows at your restaurant.

7. Utilize technological solutions to effectively minimize no-shows.

Restaurant reservation software provides valuable insights into the timing, causes, and patterns of no-shows. Data analytics can help you prevent no-shows by predicting booking patterns, customer behavior, and cancellation rates. Additionally, no-show reports can help your staff improve the guest experience by allocating potential no-show tables to walk-ins and preventing food waste.


“The heart of your strategy should focus on balance — balancing deterrents with incentives, and utilizing technology without losing the personal touch that makes dining special.”

In Conclusion:

No-shows need not be an unsolvable riddle. With a judicious blend of tech-savvy solutions and a touch of old-fashioned hospitality, you can convert this industry headache into an operational triumph. Turn the tables on no-shows, and watch as your restaurant thrives, one full booking at a time.


Hyteno provides affordable digital solutions for restaurants to help them grow, and build customer loyalty.

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