After Covid lockdown puts hundreds of restaurants out of business, no-shows for booked tables really are 'disgraceful' – Stephen Jardine

What’s wrong with these people? Sitting in the doctor’s waiting room pre-pandemic, my gaze was caught by a poster. “Last month over 20 per cent of booked appointments were missed,” it explained.

Not very much it seems because whatever medical issue was sufficiently important to get them through the hell of dealing with a doctor’s receptionist to make an appointment had vanished into the ether.

Maybe, with the help of the internet, they’d suddenly qualified in medicine and been able to perform a life-saving procedure on themselves. Or maybe they had terminal thoughtlessness and not much else wrong in the first place.

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Unfortunately for the rest of us, these people are also allowed to move around freely in society, and that includes eating out, which may explain why restaurant industry surveys regularly reveal one in five bookings are no-shows.

Possibly the same people who are far too busy to cancel a doctor’s appointment also cannot find the time to halt a restaurant reservation. But there’s a difference.

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While wasting a medical professional’s time and booking a slot someone really ill could have used is pathetic, at least the doctor still gets his salary.

In the restaurant trade, empty chairs mean lost revenue and right now that might be the difference between survival and failure for many businesses teetering on the edge.

Michelin star chef Tom Kerridge has hit out at people who make restaurant bookings then fail to turn up (Gemma Bell and Company/PA).

Perhaps it’s been so long we’ve forgotten the rules or maybe plans are currently a lot more fluid but restaurants are facing a wave of no-shows like never before. Lucy Castle, of the Braided Fig in Aberdeen reported dozens of customers not turning up for reservations during opening weekend.

When chef Tom Kerridge faced 27 no-shows on a Saturday night, he tweeted: “This industry, like many others is on the verge of collapse. Your behaviour is disgraceful, shortsighted and downright unhelpful.”

Of course plans change and arrangements are cancelled, but it only takes a minute to pick up the phone or send an email and allow the restaurant a chance to fill the table. They will be so grateful for that call because right now, every customer served matters to the bottom line.

If behaviour doesn’t change, we will be the ones who end up paying the price. Over 1,400 restaurants have already closed due to lockdown but even more will go to the wall if they cannot trade profitably.

To survive, more and more will go down the road of asking for credit card details and taking a deposit to guarantee a booking which is a pain for everyone but at least improves the chances of customers turning up.

Alternatively, we might see the rise of the ‘no reservations’ approach which has to be the worst thing to be imported from America since “Keeping Up With The Kardashians”.

Prior to Covid, it was all the rage in London where people would stand in line in the rain for hours for the chance of a table at the hottest place in town. I love my food but not enough to queue for it.

So the best system is the one we have where we decide to eat out and make an arrangement with a restaurant where they will keep us a table, have nice food and enough staff to cook and serve it.

Let’s use it or lose it.

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