Sarah Butler | The Guardian | February 24, 2018

The declining fortunes of restaurants have prompted headlines recently, with 12 branches of Jamie Oliver’s Italian chain having shut their doors and other major outlets admitting to feeling the pinch. But some owners are fighting back. Restaurateurs from independents to major chains are naming and shaming “no show” guests, requiring deposits and even selling tickets for tables.

Damian Wawrzyniak, owner of House of Feasts in Peterborough, launched a campaign to combat “no shows” after he said they cost his business £3,000 in just one weekend.

Several high-profile independent restaurants revealed that they had lost hundreds or thousands of pounds to Valentine’s Day no shows: some, including the Cauldron in Bristol, named and shamed them on social media. At Marcus Wareing’s Tredwells in central London, 20 people didn’t turn up, while Bar 44 in Cardiff said 16 tables were left empty.

Now the Casual Dining Group, which owns the Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Belgo chains, is backing the campaign. James Spragg, its chief operating officer, said: “This is an issue we are going to support.”

He said no shows would once make up only 5% of bookings but could now be as high as 15% on some nights.

Spragg added that it was difficult for a mid-range chain to take deposits except at Christmas, but the group was considering asking for a small deposit, say £5 a head, for parties of six or more, with a chance to cancel up to 48 hours before. The scheme could be tested in the next few months.

He said the issue was being fuelled by online booking services, which allowed diners to book a table from their phone with a click. “It’s so much easier for people to book that they are booking two or three restaurants, and only turning up at one,” he said.