Why more restaurants are asking for deposits

Alina Hardcastle chats to editor in chief at Eat Out, Anelde Greeff about the steps that restaurants take to counteract no-shows, and whether or not this will sit well with clientele.

We’ve all done it before. We pick up the phone to cancel that restaurant booking because we’re too tired, cold, inconvenienced or we just don’t feel like going out. Well some restaurants are putting a stop to this practice by asking diners to pay a deposit to secure their booking. Their reasoning? ‘No shows’, which is the term given to customers who make booking and then don’t show up are hurting their profits.

Greeff highlights, patrons are making multiple bookings on any given day. However only on the day of the bookings do they decide where to dine without informing the other restaurants.

But asking for a deposit is just one of the many strategies that restaurants are adopting to combat the problem of ‘no shows’. Greeff sheds light on them:

  • Reservation deposit – there is no set standard deposit for each restaurant that implements this policy; it varies at each restaurant. Greeff has found that most deposits are usually subtracted off your bill at the end of your meal, as this is not an additional cost but a precautionary measure put in place to dissuade no shows; and to partially cover the restaurant with a no-show fee. With some restaurants a deposit is only required if your party is over a certain number of people, whereas other restaurants, a deposit is charged regardless of how many people will be attending. Restaurants such as: the Potluck Club, the Test kitchen, the Short Market Club, the Tasting room in Franschoek, Moyo at Zoo Lake and others implement this policy.
  • Black listing – restaurants take note of people who don’t pitch up or inform the restaurant of their cancellation. If this occurs more than once, these individuals are blacklisted on busy nights.
  • Overbooking – like airlines, restaurants deliberately accept more reservations than there is room for.
  • No booking route – certain restaurants have a no booking policy, so that walk-ins won’t be turned away i.e. Tasha’s, Clarkes, etc.
  • Confirmations – restaurants can call their patrons on the day to confirm their booking; certain restaurants have threatened to give tables away if the patron doesn’t respond to their voice message.

So, will this become a set precedent in the restaurant industry? Greeff highly doubts that large franchises like the Spur and Panarotti will ever incorporate these steps into their business, but smaller/fine dining restaurants  that generally don’t rely on walk-ins will consider and even implement it.

There is nothing worse, for the both the patron and restaurant, than waiting around for a table, while the parties that made the reservation never arrive. Perhaps, restaurants are entitled to protect themselves. Common courtesy, decency and simple social graces are really all that restaurants are asking for after all.

To find out more, and which restaurants implement these policies, click here.