‘The number of people dropping out has increased substantially in the last number of years.’

Restaurants and retail shops are adapting to changing customer habits in the age of social media bookings.

Jonny Hodder

In the hustle of today’s world where people are constantly making commitments through social media, it can be difficult to keep up with all the promises made.

Restaurants experience this all the time with no-show reservations, and new phone apps for reservations may be making this a more common occurrence.

“This is not a new dilemma for restaurants,” said Nancy Brace, executive director of the Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. “There is a huge impact on business … When your end of year profit margin is three per cent or less, there’s not a whole lot of wiggle room for empty seats on special occasions.”

Brace has worked with the association, which advocates on behalf of the local restaurant industry, for seven years. She says the problem of cancellations and no-shows appears to be getting worse.

“The number of people dropping out – and dropping out at the last moment – has increased substantially in the last number of years.”

Brace says the rise in late cancellations may be connected to other trends in customer habits, including the increased use of online reservations.

“It’s easier for me to be inconsiderate of an automated voice or a click on the keys than it is if I have to phone and establish a relationship with somebody at the end of the phone,” said Brace.

The Fifth Ticket began serving customers from its Water Street location in July 2015. Owner David Primmer says last minute cancellations and no-shows are commonplace in the restaurant industry. Jonny Hodder/Kicker

David Primmer, owner of The Fifth Ticket on Water Street in downtown St. John’s, agrees.

“It’s the name of the game in this business, unfortunately,” said Primmer. “Most people wouldn’t book a hotel room and not show up without warning, but frequently do it in the food and beverage industry.”

However, Primmer is quick to point out that only a small percentage of customers are guilty of being no-shows.

Brace says many restaurants are changing their approach to reservations in order to curb the problem.

“People are charging the cancellation fees,” said Brace. “A lot of restaurants are moving towards no reservations … and some places are having a host or a waiter or the manager call and confirm reservations of tables of four or more. And that’s how they’re trying to avoid it.”

The problem is not limited to the restaurant industry. It also extends to the retail sector.

Downtown Comics’ owner Jason Conway says he receives regular requests to hold items like comic books or action figures through social media.

“It doesn’t happen everyday, but they’ll say ‘Oh, hold me this, hold me that!’, and somebody else is like, ‘I want to buy that’, but it’s already on hold. Then a week later nobody shows up. ”

Conway says these situations are inconvenient for him, but as a business owner he understands the larger impact on the restaurant industry.

“I got the product anyways so I can sell it to someone else,” he said. “You’re talking a $10 or $15 item. But two people showing up or not showing up can be a couple of hundred bucks for a restaurant.”