Hardline Ways to Preserve Resto Revenues

If you thought that the short-lived move by some upscale restaurants to institute compulsory tipping was outrageous, wait till you hear what they’re up to, now! Some fancy joints in New York are considering charging for cancelled reservations. Cancellations are actually a major problem…

Cloud Restaurant Reservations - © kde.ccInternet-enabled reservation systems have proven to be a double-edged
sword for some restaurant operators…

Resto managers say they are getting more and more last-minute cancellations these days – thanks largely to advances in technology that allow diners to cancel remotely, even on their smart phones, without actually fessing up face-to-face or even voice-to-voice with the resto.

Others point to a growing culture, also fostered by new technology, in which diners make several restaurant reservations for the same night, only choosing the one they’ll actually attend at the last minute. And cancelling the others.Some resto operators say they’re suffering cancellation rates upward of 50 per cent on some nights that are supposed to be their biggest. The industry-wide average is more like 15 per cent – and that’s bad enough. What’s worse, restos are turning away other reservations because – on the books, at least – they’re full up. You can’t stay in business like that!

So, says Mike von Massow, co-director of the University of Guelph Restaurant Research Project, resto operators need to find some way to counter the cancellation epidemic. Charging for cancelled reservations is one way. Other ‘models’ have been proposed:

  • The resto can ‘sell tickets’ for meals, like a concert or sports event. Next eatery in Chicago is already doing this. Putting significant value on the reservation – even paying up front for your dinner – makes people respect their commitment to attend more seriously.
  • Some restos are considering a ‘dynamic pricing’ approach. Why not charge more for a given signature meal on bigger, more popular nights?
  • Still others are looking at using reservation services that charge a service fee up front just for making the reservation.

The question remains…

Will diners accept – or even grudgingly put up with – these new resto marketing models?

First of all, I believe it puts the restos in an adversarial relationship with their clients. The restos are, in effect, saying, “We don’t trust you.” That’s sad.

I predict that this kind of ‘revenue assurance’ stance by restaurant operators will cheese off a lot of people. Only in the unlikely event that all restos everywhere adopt these strategies will diners cave and go with the flow. More likely, folks will abandon the restos that charge upfront for reservations, or retroactively for cancellations, in favour of the place down the block with great food and no pressure.

It’s a Catch 22 for the restos suffering cancellation cancer in their revenues. Still, inconsiderate diners who make multiple reservations and cancel most of them need to grow up and realize that, if they keep doing this, their fave sports to reserve will soon go out of business.

~ Maggie J.