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David Charlton

October 8 2019,
David Charlton

How to avoid bone-chilling no-shows this All Saints’ Eve.

For children, Halloween is a fun event in the calendar. They dress up as cute vampires and werewolves and collect sweets from friendly neighbours. It’s as terrifying as tickling a puppy.

The older our little ones get, though, the scarier Halloween becomes. Teenagers are introduced to horror films, and take morbid pleasure in scaring the life out of their friends by telling their own blood-curdling tales by torchlight. The bloodier and gorier the stories, the better – likewise if they relate to local legends or locations. At some stage, every child will have checked under their bed for monsters before trying to sleep.

As adults, the fun comes back into it. Halloween is a good excuse for a party, especially if it’s fancy dress. But for hospitality business owners, there’s one thing that causes a racing pulse, sweaty palms, and a dry mouth more than any Nightmare on Elm Street film: no-shows.

Ghosting and no-shows

Ghosting is defined as “the practice of suddenly ending all contact with a person without explanation.” It’s a term used in romantic relationships, particularly online dating, where one person seemingly disappears without a trace and never responds to any attempted contact.

Although ghosting mainly refers to dating, it’s equally applicable to no-shows in hospitality. Think about it for a second: a commitment is made to meet up at a specific time and place, only for one side to let the other down without any warning or justification.

The difference in hospitality is that – on top of the emotional and psychological pain it inflicts – there’s also the financial damage.

No-shows-no-profits--insert-1No-shows, no profits

No-shows are a Frankenstein’s monster of a problem for the hospitality industry. Every year the UK restaurant industry loses an estimated £16 billion due to no-shows. And in an industry where the average profit margin sits around the 3-5% mark, it’s an unsustainable loss.

Hospitality has been looking for a silver bullet to get rid of this menace once and for all. However, just like Michael Myers in the never-ending series of ‘Halloween’ films, no-shows refuse to go away and leave us in peace. Everytime you think the issue is dealt with, it simply rises up from the grave again.

While garlic deters vampires – be sure to put garlic bread on your menu this Halloween! – and holy water sees off pesky poltergeists, there’s no mythical or magical solution to completely eliminate no-shows. However, there are ways for you to reduce their frequency and impact on your business.

Act like a human

While Halloween’s spooks and ghouls are other-worldly, your customers are definitely human – no matter how much you see them as ‘evil spirits’ when they fail to turn up. So talk to them in a human way. Communicate with them as you would if you were talking to your own friends or family.

In a digital world where communications can so often feel cold and robotic, a warm, personal touch can go a long way. And it’s also beneficial for your hospitality venue.

For example, sending customers to your site or app to make a booking rather than a third-party site or widget helps you to start building a relationship with them. You can collect their information, collate their preferences, and begin understanding who they are and what they like. Simply put, you own the relationship.

A couple of days before their booking, why not contact them and ask them to confirm their reservation? Research shows that the typical open rates of SMS are 82%, a huge improvement on the average rate for emails, 18%. So if you want to get your message read, strongly consider sending it by text.

By sending a short text prior to their visit you can decrease the chance of them becoming a no-show. Their reservation is top of their mind so there’s no chance of them forgetting, and they’re less likely to let you down if there’s a personal connection between you, no matter how small.


The lesser of two evils

Even better, why not give them the ability to edit or even cancel their booking? While you don’t want a cancellation so close to an important night, it’s better to find out sooner rather than later. In fact, it’s the lesser of two evils, as you have enough time and notice to rebook tables, manage any staffing requirements, and minimise losses.

The alternative is for your venue to resemble the Day of the Dead with staff standing around and tables sitting empty – and all the while you’re losing money.

So while there’ll always be a few little monsters out there who fail to honour their booking, there are ways to keep the number to a manageable figure. And staying the right side of that line is the difference between trick and treat for your hospitality business, whether it’s Halloween or any other day of the year.

Want to learn more about reducing no-shows? Watch our on-demand webinar featuring David Charlton, Zonal’s Commercial Director, and Anna-Marie Mason, Director of Brand Marketing for Mitchells & Butlers, to get expert advice and top tips. Watch our on-demand webinar.

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