‘It can be soul-destroying’ - restaurant owner sees rise in no-show diners

Richard Graveling, pictured outside The Grove hotel and restaurant. Photo: Mark Bullimore

Richard Graveling, pictured outside The Grove hotel and restaurant. Photo: Mark Bullimore

A restaurateur says he has seen more no-show diners this season than ever before, with a surge in demand for bookings potentially to blame.

Richard Graveling, of The Grove in Cromer, said the popularity of coastal areas and rise in staycations appeared to be causing customers to hedge their bets with multiple bookings.

But some are not cancelling those they do not attend - on Friday, two tables of four did not turn up for dinner at the restaurant, despite only booking earlier that day.

“It almost seems like people are getting so desperate to eat at restaurants and are phoning around, booking various ones and making a decision once they’ve got a table booked,” he said.

“It is only a guess, but we’re certainly seeing many more no-show diners than in previous seasons.”

He said he didn’t think it was anything to do with Covid-19 precautions, but that the rise in both people staying local and holidaymakers in the area meant it was more difficult to find a table.

MORE: ‘A small courtesy to ring’ - restaurants’ plea for empathy as no-show diners are criticised

He said: “We had two tables that booked, and I even said if you aren’t going to come please let us know, and they both assured me they would.

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“You then try and phone them and it goes straight to voicemail.

“It’s really frustrating for restaurants, it can be soul-destroying. You have to turn tables away because you are full, and then you are looking at an empty table and feel for the guests that really wanted to come.”

He said demand meant they could have filled either table three times over.

“It’s arrogant, it’s disrespectful and it’s misguided to think it won’t affect individual restaurants,” he said.

He said, on average, for a table of four - including wine - they could estimate they were losing at least £160.

Restaurants elsewhere around the country have considered taking deposits for bookings, but Mr Graveling said it was time-consuming, and risked dampening what should be a positive booking experience.

He instead urged people to cancel bookings they could not attend.

“I think some people are scared to cancel because they worry they’ll get an earful,” he said. “That’s never the case - we would much rather people say they can’t come, it might be disappointing but at least we know. People shouldn’t worry about that - it’s just playing their part.”