The Wall Street Journal found that 20% of all reservations result in no-shows, and business owners know that no-shows can cause a serious revenue hit. While it is impossible to force restaurant patrons to stick to their reservations, restaurant owners and software companies have developed some savvy tools and practices to reduce no-shows. Take a look at some of the ways your business can cut back on unfulfilled reservations.

Go Digital with Reservations

This may not come as a huge surprise, but not many people want to pick up the phone to make a reservation these days. With the ability to reserve a table with one click, why should they? Systems like OpenTable, TouchBistro and Yelp Reservations can be integrated with your restaurant’s website or POS to make booking reservations a piece of cake on both ends. Most systems send e-mail or text message reminders ahead of time to ensure that reservations aren’t forgotten. Even better, these platforms can be used to cancel a table just as quickly as reserving one. It’s all about efficiency! 

Establish a Clear Reservation Policy

Things happen. Diners get stuck in traffic or stuck on trains, and they may be late or unable to show up for a reservation. To remind restaurant patrons that you get it, state your reservation window policy wherever possible. Letting customers know that they have a good twenty minutes of leeway will encourage them to do their best to make the reservation instead of skipping out and grabbing a slice. When no-shows do occur, sometimes restaurants will charge a no-show fee with credit card info requested upon reservation. If you choose to adopt this policy, it is essential to advertise also. Charged customers will be unlikely to return if they were not alerted of your policy previously.

Thank Diners Who Do Make Their Reservations

So your restaurant’s Friday night dinner went swimmingly – almost all of your reservations showed, the chef knocked it out of the park and revenue is booming. So how can you strive towards a successful dinner every night? Positive reinforcement! Take the time to thank your restaurant patrons who stayed true to their reservations and enjoyed a lovely evening at your establishment. By going digital, following up with automatic e-mails is quite simple. If you want to take it to the next level, send over a coupon or free drink for next time. SImply building relationships with your customers, builds trust and loyalty. 

Overbook – with Caution

Ah, the old trick to reducing no-shows. Overbooking can be helpful because no-show percentages won’t affect revenue as harshly. However, an obvious dilemma is presented when there are very few no-shows and you find your restaurant unable to accommodate all of its guests in a speedy manner. People who have booked in advance will end up waiting for a while when there are no tables available. Looking for no-show patterns is an acceptable way to consider whether or not your restaurant can overbook reservations. If there is a certain day a week or time frame when a surge in no-shows occurs, it may be a smart idea to overbook slightly during that hour.

Consider Ditching Reservations All Together

While this suggestion may sound obvious, reservation-less restaurants are on the rise. Spots that have gotten rid of reservations are captivating guests because they promote inclusivity and a love for food. However, this practice works best for low to moderately priced restaurants. Unfortunately, people just don’t want to wait in line for two hours to sink their teeth into a sixty-dollar steak. Experimenting with a no-reservation policy may benefit your restaurant by getting rid of the risks that come with relying on booking tables.