8 Useful Tips for Lowering the Number of Restaurant No-Shows

restaurant no shows

Restaurant service is based on trust between owners and customers. Clients trust you to offer them a great food experience and delicious dishes and you trust patrons to honor their reservations and respect your business’s policies.

Despite this, every restaurant owner has encountered the common problem of restaurant no-shows. While emergencies do happen, if you encounter a large number of people who miss their reservations, there may be a problem on your part.

In this article, you will find a variety of tips on how to reduce the number of restaurant no-shows:

What are restaurant no-shows and why do they happen?

What is no-show in a restaurant? Simply put, restaurant no-shows refer to the number of people that book a table at the restaurant but don't carry through with their reservation. As a consequence, you, as the restaurant owner, are left with free tables that you could have used to serve other customers.

Did you know 20% of diners don’t show up for their reservation? No-shows can significantly impact your business:

  • No-shows cost the average restaurant about £1,325 in just two months;
  • Ingredients may turn into food waste as they didn't get to be used on the day they were planned for.

There are countless reasons why a person doesn't honor their restaurant reservation, for example:

  • They had an emergency;
  • They changed their plans;
  • They forgot.

The only way to find out is to ask the customers themselves.

For example, you can give them a quick call or choose the easier way of an email to let them know they missed their reservation, inquire if they would like to reschedule, and ask (in a polite way) what the reason was and what you could to prevent this happening in the future.

How to prevent restaurant no-shows and make your customers happy

To ensure you run a successful restaurant, you must focus on acquiring loyal clients that appreciate the work you put into creating amazing dishes and a friendly atmosphere.

Here are some tips on how to reduce the number of restaurant no-shows and how to get people who missed their reservations to visit your restaurant again.

1. Use an online table reservation system

The first step for preventing no-show restaurant reservations is to offer clients an easy way to make table bookings. Doing this by phone requires unnecessary interaction that many people shy away from.

Instead, give them a convenient option by installing an online table reservation system that allows them to do everything online.

No need to start researching, we have the best solution: the free online table booking system from GloriaFood. In just a few minutes, you can add a Table reservation button to your website, so your clients can book tables online.

Check out this demo website to have a better view of how it would look on your restaurant website.

no show restaurant reservations

Follow these steps to start accepting online table bookings:

  • Sign up on GloriaFood and complete your restaurant’s profile;
  • Go to Setup -> Services & opening hours -> Table reservation;
    how to reduce restaurant no-shows
  • Copy the code we give you on your website (or get a restaurant website with an integrated online restaurant reservation system from us);
  • Download the order and reservation taking app on iOS or Android;
  • You are ready to accept and manage your table bookings!

2. Implement the order-ahead feature

Usually, not showing up for a restaurant reservation has no impact on the client. But what if it did? They will surely be more motivated to make it in time if there was money involved. Now let’s see how paying before getting to the restaurant can also be beneficial for customers.

Prevent restaurant no-shows by encouraging customers to order ahead and pay online Install an online ordering system that makes the process easy Start now

The table reservation system from GloriaFood is equipped with the Order-ahead feature that allows guest to pre-order their food when they book a table and even pay ahead for it. This way, they can enjoy their food in a timely manner after they are seated and save time.

restaurant no-show policy

To make this order ahead option more appealing, ensure you create an attractive online menu, full of mouth-watering pictures and inviting descriptions. You can do this easily with our online ordering system.

Watch this video to learn how to create the best online restaurant menu for your website:

3. Send reminders to clients who booked a table

Some clients lead busy lives and may forget about their reservation or about their plans to cancel it. With the table booking system from GloriaFood, clients receive automatic reminders on the day of their reservation.

This gives people enough time to settle their plans and let you know if they won’t be able to honor their booking. It also allows you to free up the table in time to serve other customers, so you don't lose out on business.

4. Have reservations available only for less-busy hours

Monitoring your sales is a must in the restaurant industry. This way, you can find out both what your best-selling menu items are and what are the hours when your restaurant is busy, with many people waiting for a seat.

The busy hours are usually :

  • When people are off work;
  • At the end of the week when clients are more likely to go out with friends and family;

Therefore, to counter the big number of restaurant no-shows, offer reservations for your less-busy hours if you know the rest of the time your tables are filled by walk-ins.

With the free table reservation system from GloriaFood, you can do all the above in just a few clicks:

  • Add separate opening hours for table reservations;
    restaurant cancellation policy
  • Pause table reservations for a while from the admin dashboard and directly from the order taking app when you’re overwhelmed.
    how to reduce the number of restaurant no-shows

5. Call people who miss their booking

Every reservation should have a timeframe attached, you can’t keep a table empty for a long time or you lose sales. 15 minutes is the standard most restaurants keep a table booked before they open it for walk-ins.

Train your employees to call people after 5 minutes into the 15-minute table reservation period and remind clients they have a booking at your restaurant and ask if they will be arriving soon.

The tone should always be polite and understanding because even if they missed the booking this time, they may still want to visit the restaurant in the future.

6. Advertise your available spots

If you are a popular restaurant, where people fight to get a good reservation, you must let people know when a spot opens up. Who knows, maybe someone was just looking for a place to eat and your post will grab their attention.

You can create a standard social media post template with:

  • A photo of your restaurant's interior or food with an overlay where you write the date and hour for the table reservation;
  • A FOMO (fear of missing out) caption, such as “Don’t miss out on your chance to enjoy chef Florian’s duck confit! Make a reservation now!”.

Read more: 25 Eye-Catching Social Media Post Ideas for Restaurants

7. Use social media to make the negative effect of restaurant no shows known

Restaurants can use social media to entertain with mouth-watering food images, but also to educate. You can teach followers to cook simple recipes, you can show them the atmosphere of a professional kitchen, and you can let them know about some of the adversities you face.

For example, you can tell clients that restaurant no-shows severely affect your business's well-being because you lose sales and produce food waste. Appeal to their empathy by sharing how much you invest in creating a great food experience at your small restaurant and that you need their help to succeed.

Read more: Social Media Marketing for Restaurants: 10 Strategies You Must Try

8. Reward punctuality with restaurant coupon codes

Sometimes, negative consequences may actually deter people from making reservations, rather than making them honor them. Instead, try rewarding good behavior by offering restaurant coupon codes to people who showed up on time for their table booking.

You can also use it as an opportunity to drive repeat business or promote your online ordering service if you give them a flyer with a 5% off their next order.

can restaurants charge for no-shows

With the free online ordering system from GloriaFood, you can create a restaurant discount code in no time. Go to admin -> Marketing -> Promotions -> Self-made promos and choose any of the promotion templates you would like to offer customers that arrive on time.

  how to reduce the number of no shows in restaurants

Afterward, customize the text, image, and other conditions for the offer to be redeemed. To generate a coupon code, check the box for “Use custom coupon code” and enter a code such as “5%OFF”. Print it on a flyer and you are done.

Encourage clients to honor their reservations with restaurant coupon codes Create a discount code in just a few minutes with the Promotions module from GloriaFood Start now

Watch this video for more advanced instructions on how to create restaurant coupon codes:


Finding efficient ways to reduce the number of restaurant no-shows will help you lead a successful restaurant with continuously growing sales.

Focus on using technology and positive reinforcement if you own a small business and only use more aggressive techniques if your restaurant is very busy and you have a lot of people missing their reservations.

Otilia Dobos

Otilia Dobos is sometimes a content writer, other times a copywriter, but always produces high-quality content that helps clients up their marketing game. She devotes her attention to helping restaurant owners have a successful business with well-documented and SEO-optimized articles.

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