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‘They’re stiffing us,’ says Burnaby restaurant owner about diners who don’t cancel reservations

Burnaby restaurants have suffered a lot throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but things are starting to get better.
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Although more people are eating out as pandemic restrictions ease, some are making things harder on restaurants by not honouring their reservations.

Burnaby restaurants have suffered a lot throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but things are starting to get better.

According to OpenTable, which many Burnaby eateries use for online restaurant reservations, over 75% of their restaurants have reopened in Canada, and seated diners at those restaurants in August are just 3% below 2019 levels.

A new survey from OpenTable reveals that 27% of Canadians intend on eating out more frequently than before the pandemic and to support local restaurants (56%), enjoy a change of scenery (55%) and take a break from cooking at home (40%). Now with COVID restrictions lifting, 46% of Canadians are excited to have the option to dine at a restaurant.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that diners are also screwing over businesses by making reservations and then not showing up or cancelling them in time for restaurants to book someone else.

“They’re stiffing us,” one Burnaby restaurant owner told me. “On a busy night we’re having to turn away people because we’re booked and then people don’t show up. That means we’ve lost revenue on a table at a time when we’re just hanging on. Every table counts and we can’t afford to just lose it because someone is too lazy to let us know. It’s got to stop.”

According to the OpenTable data, almost one in 10 Canadians say they haven't shown up for a reservation in the past year.

"When a diner doesn't fulfill a reservation, it significantly impacts the restaurant's revenue," said Matt Davis, Country Director, OpenTable Canada. "At OpenTable, we have a responsibility to help build awareness of this issue and leverage our technology in every way possible to reduce no-show rates."

To support restaurants through this period of recovery, OpenTable has launched ‘Show-Up for Restaurants’ to spotlight the impact of no-shows and to encourage diners to modify or cancel their reservation when plans change. OpenTable has added new tools and features to help restaurants prevent no-shows.

  • A New Way to Tag Diners: This new tool allows restaurants to label a diner as a potential no-show based on previous reservation activity. The tool allows restaurateurs to tag the diner with a new label, so they can be proactive about confirming attendance with the diner as their reservation approaches.
  • “Four Strikes and You’re Out”: OpenTable's policy suspends diners who don't show up for a reservation four times per calendar year. This policy is in addition to a number of features that OpenTable offers to mitigate no-shows, such as email and SMS reminders, prepaid experiences, availability alerts, customizable cancellation policies, credit-card required reservations holds and more.
  • Communicate Directly with Restaurants In-App: OpenTable’s new Direct Messaging feature allows diners to communicate with restaurants before and after making a reservation, without ever having to make a phone call. Direct messaging empowers restaurants to serve up better hospitality by reducing cancellations and no-shows and building stronger connections that keep guests coming back.

As lockdown restrictions continue to lift, proof of vaccination is becoming a new safety standard that people will need to navigate. To simplify that process, OpenTable now allows restaurants to display COVID-19 vaccine requirements to diners. OpenTable is also launching a new tool that tags a diner as “Verified for Entry” once they’ve met entry requirements, such as proof of vaccination.