A new emphasis on reservations has hit the sector following a “wave” of no-shows, according to the CGA’s latest Consumer Pulse survey.
The survey found that only 28% of consumers visited venues with no reservations in the 10 days after the sector reopened on 4 July.
Visits to venues have also been shorter, with consumers visiting for an average of 67 minutes less than they did pre-Covid.
According to the CGA, however, 5% of those who made a table reservation failed to turn up without informing the venue.
A further 5% made a table reservation but then cancelled. This equates to around one in six consumers failing to fulfil a reservation since the sector reopened.
Nonetheless, the survey found an “acceptance” among consumers for mandatory deposits on pre-booking.
Some 58% of adults would be willing to pay a £5 per head deposit when making reservations, which “surprisingly” jumps to 78% for those who had admitted to cancelling or not showing up for a reserved booking.
However, 19% of respondents suggested that a scheme like this would be “off-putting”.
Despite this, the survey has “optimistic” signs for recovery, with 34% of consumers returning to food and drink businesses in the first 10 days of reopening, with an “increasing inclination to visit more than a single venue in a trip”.
Rachel Weller, CGA’s head of consumer research and marketing, said: “The pandemic has triggered a seismic shift in consumer behaviour from spontaneity to planning.
“This has positive implications for operators who can provide a smooth booking process and great experience—but unfortunately it will also increase the number of no-shows.”
She added: “Highlighting the damage this can do to recovering businesses, and convincing people that it is safe to eat out, may ease the problem—but it’s clear that all operators are going to need to adjust quickly to this new era of advance planning and mandatory deposits may just be the solution.”