‘No show’ diners sees Norwich bar introduce booking deposits

Customers enjoy pizzas from the Botanical Garden Bar.

Customers enjoy pizzas from the Botanical Garden Bar. - Credit: Rob Dodsworth

A Norwich bar has introduced a deposit scheme after seven out of 10 customers booking tables failed to show up.

Botanical Garden Bar said lost trade from ‘no-shows’ - people who booked for free and didn’t turn up - meant that to remain open it was now only accepting bookings with a “refundable deposit”.

The outdoor bar in the garden of a medieval church St Simon and St Jude Church at the bottom of Elm Hill launched as a ‘pop-up’ last year but returned by popular demand with the easing of lockdown restrictions last month

The Botanical Garden Bar is back in Norwich by popular demand, with Norfolk food and drink on the menu. 

The Botanical Garden Bar is back in Norwich by popular demand, with Norfolk food and drink on the menu. - Credit: Rob Dodsworth

But the cafe, which serves woodfired pizzas inspired by places in Norfolk and local beers, said during the weekend May 19-22 some 72pc of bookings were ‘no shows’.

When contacted people who failed to show said they had simply ‘forgotten’ to cancel their booking, said the cafe, adding “a free booking system is only sustainable if people turn up”.

One of the pizzas on offer at the Botanical Garden Bar. 

One of the pizzas on offer at the Botanical Garden Bar. - Credit: Rob Dodsworth

The venue is run by award-winning Norfolk theatre company Curious Directive who said people failing to honour bookings was “highly disruptive” to it's not-for-profit business model.


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It said the changes have been successful in solving the problem and the venue had proved popular over the Bank Holiday weekend. 

The new garden bar is raising money for the curious directive theatre company who are based at the S

The Botanical Garden Bar (pictured last year) reopened in May. - Credit: Archant

No shows have long been a problem in the hospitality trade but have been exacerbated by the pandemic and the reduction in capacity as a result of social distancing regulations. 

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Foursquare Group helps independent hospitality, retail and leisure businesses, has launched a #SaveMySeat campaign to encourage deposits.

Louise Kissack, non executive director of hospitality, said: “As we enter yet another phase of the new normal, we’re on a mission to normalise deposits.”

#SaveMySeat campaign

#SaveMySeat campaign aims to help customers understand a small deposit on booking is a way of safeguarding business. - Credit: Foursquare Group

Norwich restaurants finally able to welcome customers back indoors said ‘no shows’ were a serious problem particularly for small venues where social distancing limited the number of tables

Francis Woolf, owner of Nelson Street eatery Woolf and Social, said three or four tables a week booked but never filled they were barely making any profit for that seating.

However some Norfolk restaurant owners reckon charging customers upfront is "too brutal".

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