OpenTable aims to help halt Canadian reservation no-shows

Canadians are eagerly returning to their favourite spots, with COVID-19 restrictions lifted to some extent everywhere across Canada and restaurants open again across the country. However, OpenTable data suggests that reservation no-shows are persisting as a problem for the industry.

The provider of online restaurant reservations found that over 75 per cent of its restaurant partners have now reopened in Canada. The number of seated diners at those restaurants in August is just three per cent below 2019 levels, according to OpenTable’s State of the Industry Dashboard

A new survey from OpenTable reveals that 46 per cent of Canadians are excited to have the option to dine at a restaurant and 27 per cent intend on eating out more frequently than before the pandemic. The primary motivations behind that desire are to support local restaurants (56 per cent), to enjoy a change of scenery (55 per cent), and to take a break from cooking at home (40 per cent).

Restaurants still being ghosted

However, while Canadians are certainly keen to dine out, restaurants are relying on every reservation more than ever. The impact of guests not showing up their meals is often overlooked, but it can be a punishing experience for operators.

When an operator is holding tables for reservations, they turn away walk-in customers and lose potential revenue. Not only that, but they schedule their staff dependent on the expected business for certain days. When no-shows occur, not only are restaurants not making the revenue they expected, but they’re paying out of pocket for being over-staffed, not to mention potentially wasting stock and inventory.

OpenTable found that almost one in 10 Canadians say they haven’t shown up for a reservation in the past year. What many people don’t realize, though, is that calling to cancel is far better than simply not showing up. It’s possible for restaurants to lose their entire profit margin for that shift if a table of six doesn’t show up for a reservation.

“When a diner doesn’t fulfill a reservation, it significantly impacts the restaurant’s revenue,” said Matt Davis, Country Director, OpenTable Canada. “At OpenTable, we have a responsibility to help build awareness of this issue and leverage our technology in every way possible to reduce no-show rates.”

The most considerate diners are in Saskatchewan, with 88 per cent indicating they’ve never failed to cancel a reservation. Quebec and Manitoba restaurant-goers also stand out for making good on their reservations (73 per cent), according to OpenTable data.

“To be honest, it’s always been somewhat of a problem. It’s just become exacerbated over the course of the pandemic given the fact that restaurants have less inventory or tables because of capacity restrictions,” added Davis, as quoted by Retail Insider. “Whenever a diner doesn’t show up for a reservation, it makes more impact now than ever before because they could essentially wipe out that restaurant’s profit margin for the evening just by not showing up.”

Working to stop no-shows

To support restaurants through this period of recovery, OpenTable has launched a campaign called “Show-Up for Restaurants” to spotlight the impact of no-shows and to encourage diners to modify or cancel their reservations when plans change.

OpenTable has added new tools and features to help restaurants prevent no-shows, including:

  • A new way to tag diners: This new tool allows restaurants to label a diner as a potential no-show based on previous reservation activity, and lets restaurateurs tag the diner with a new label so they can be proactive about confirming attendance with the diner as their reservation approaches.
  • “Four Strikes and You’re Out”: OpenTable’s policy suspends diners who don’t show up for a reservation four times per calendar year. This policy is in addition to a number of features that OpenTable offers to mitigate no-shows, such as email and SMS reminders, prepaid experiences, availability alerts, customizable cancellation policies, credit card required reservations holds, and more.
  • Communicate directly with restaurants in-app: OpenTable’s new Direct Messaging feature allows diners to communicate with restaurants before and after making a reservation, without ever having to make a phone call. Direct messaging empowers restaurants to serve up better hospitality by reducing cancellations and no-shows and building stronger connections that keep guests coming back.

Making proof of vaccination easier

Meanwhile, as lockdown restrictions continue to lift, proof of vaccination is becoming a new safety standard that people will need to navigate.

To simplify that process, OpenTable now allows restaurants to display COVID-19 vaccine requirements to diners. OpenTable is also launching a new tool that tags a diner as “verified for entry” once they’ve met entry requirements, such as proof of vaccination.

RELATED: Vaccination mandates: How to handle asking for proof

Persisting pandemic trends

The OpenTable data also revealed other conclusions about some Canadian restaurant trends that appear to be persisting through the pandemic, including:

  • Forty-five per cent of Canadians are keen to try more experimental foods now that restaurants are open to in-person dining, with Ontario (51 per cent) and BC (49 per cent) diners standing out for their adventurous tastes.
  • Residents in Saskatchewan (34 per cent) intend to eat out more frequently now than before pandemic restrictions, followed by those in Ontario and British Colombia (31 per cent).

Get more information on this data, and to learn more about these app features and the “Show Up for Restaurants” campaign on OpenTable’s blog.

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