Christmas is just around the corner and group bookings will be up across the board for family, work and friend get-togethers opting for sit-down meals to celebrate the season.
Although this is definitely a positive for restaurants, cancellations and last minute no-shows with large groups can cost businesses valuable revenue, leaving empty seats and empty pockets. So how can businesses combat this, and what tips are invaluable for restaurants during this season?
Wade Murphy, owner and chef at 1826 Adare in Limerick, agrees that having an official deposit policy in place, clearly displayed on the website and mentioned over the phone, is important to help operators not lose out.
With 75 seats available in Wade's restaurant, a 'no-show' of 10 represents a substantial loss to the business. Wade says that the business recently changed their procedures regarding bookings and now all tables on a Saturday night, all bookings online and all tables of four or more must give credit card details.
"99.9% of people have no problem with it once you explain it to them. We can be lenient if notice is given or depending on circumstances as we have a 24-hour cancellation policy, but even with calls on the day we can use our own discretion," he explained.
The business also takes deposits upfront on larger groups to prevent losing out and they also make a point of emailing on terms and conditions afterwards. It's not so much the cancellations that are problematic, however - as Wade stated, they have no problem reselling a table. "It's the table that doesn't call – you'll never get that revenue back there," he said.
Many merchant services have it in their T&Cs that if credit card details are taken over the phone, without chip and pin or a signature, and that the transaction comes back as fraudulent, the restaurant is not covered and they will bear the cost.
1826 Adare uses an online booking system called ResDiary to prevent this, which enables the restaurant to take a waiting list for cancellations, store credit card numbers securely through Stripe and prevent fraud. This system instantly does the security check for the business and will not allow transactions from stolen cards.
Another way that 1826 Adare combats being left in the lurch is by sending a text to confirm bookings with customers closer to the time of the event. Not only do they receive calls in the immediate aftermath from customers who were then reminded to cancel their events, but they also receive information about adjustments in the numbers that will attend under each booking. "Numbers go up and down organising a group – it not the customers' fault and you have to be understanding with people," Wade explained.
For more detailed information about taking deposits please go to http://www.consumerhelp.ie/paying-deposits.