Should more restaurants be introducing pre-paid ticketing?

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 18th May 2015
You don't have to watch a Gordon Ramsay show to know that running a restaurant is a precarious business. And one thing restaurateurs have always disliked is when people don't turn up for their reservations on busy nights, or call to cancel just minutes before. In April, Turners Restaurant in Birmingham became the first in the UK to launch a live pre-payment booking system - to help diners save on Michelin dining in return for guaranteeing the eponymous Turners - one of the smallest Michelin Restaurant in the UK with just 28 covers - reduce the costs associated with last minute cancellations and no shows.Credit to Turners Restaurant There is often a high perception of Michelin dining to be expensive, but with high overheads, attentive service and often small venues, margins are tight and diners not always turning up means costs do remain high. Chef Richard Turner of Turners Restaurant in Harbourne, Birmingham, one of four in Birmingham, announced in April that he is launching a special pre-pay ‘ticket’ system to help add value to the customer experience. “Being a Michelin restaurant can be considered to be a bit of a double edged knife,” explained Richard. “Diners expect the best in service, food and the highest quality fixtures, fittings and of course tableware, but often don’t choose to dine at such restaurants as they perceive them to be expensive. “But to service the demands of customers we need to keep ahead of the game and maintain high staff levels to attend to their needs at every service, and being one of the smallest Michelin Restaurants in the UK our costs remain high - then if they decide not to turn up without letting us know, it can make the difference between a profit or loss on certain services.” Richard Turner'sRichard continued: “So to help customers save and to maintain our tight margins we have adopted the American ‘ticket-system’ of booking. It is simple, much like booking an airline ticket or theatre, the earlier you book, the better chance you have of dining on your chosen time. “Diners can pre-book by visiting our special ‘Turners Ticket’ website page direct, and if they choose to pre-pay they save over 20% on our Simply Turners a la carte menu, normally costing £55 for five dishes it would be just £45 per person on a Thursday night, however unlike lots of online offers they will receive the full Turners Restaurant experience and menu.” The system was first trialed in Chicago at renowned three Michelin star restaurant where no shows were reduced and customer value increased and has now become a popular option amongst diners in the US. Richard said: "UK diners have a different approach, so I thought we would trial it for a few weeks until the end of May - I guess you could say its a 'pop-up' trial offer. We may upset a few people with this Thursday pre-pay system, but I’ve never been one to make decision lightly and at Turners its all about the food, but to make the perfect omelette you have to crack a few eggs.”Restaurant noma The trial is to see how the Midlands diners would take-up the pre-payment system, and early feedback has been positive, Richard said: "It was a slow start with many customers ringing up to check how it worked and asking what the catch was but once they understood the concept they were keen to book. “We have certainly seen a positive uptake, so we are looking at how to maybe introduce it into our schedule moving forward - If you don't try these things you never know, and if nothing else, being a Michelin restaurant means you need to push boundaries at all levels.” Noma, in Denmark, also has it's own way to deal with restaurant no-shows. They turn to social media to shame the customers who stand-up reservations but when they only serve 12 tables costing up to $500 each for a meal it's no surprise that no shows aren't taken to kindly; as Peter Kreiner, managing director of Noma sas 'It's quite a large percentage of the sales that we miss out on'. bookingThe pros of pre-paid ticketing is the offer of financial security for your business. As it is estimated that for every reservation made in large cities, around 20% result in an empty table that the business must hope to fill with walk-in customers. Those are odds that some restaurants just can't afford to bet on. By Henna Holtinkoski

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 18th May 2015

Should more restaurants be introducing pre-paid ticketing?