SCOTS have been urged to think the staff working in pubs and restaurants amid a “damaging” trend of no-shows, industry bodies have said.

The National spoke to restaurants that told us that at times as many as half of their bookings were no-shows.

Hospitality groups are pleading with customers to think of the staff and businesses, with the sector still recovering after being one of the hardest-hit during the Covid-19 lockdown.

According to a survey, Glasgow is the second-worst city in the UK for no-shows– after London – while Edinburgh is among the best.

The research by TheFork revealed that 30% of respondents who failed to show up for a recent booking did so because they were "spread-booking".

Spread-booking is when consumers book multiple reservations but only intend to honour one of them – and it has an estimated cost of £6.2 million to UK restaurants.

Industry bodies have condemned the practice and say hospitality needs the public now more than ever.

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Paul Waterson, Scottish Licensed Trade Association spokesperson, said limits on capacity for indoor hospitality was exacerbating the problem. He said: “There’s social distancing so a restaurant that holds 50 people now only sells 30. If you take a booking for six people on Saturday night and they don’t turn up you’ve not only lost your 20 that you can’t have anyway you have lost another six. That can be your profit.

“If you look at a Saturday night for instance when you are fully booked then that is a big problem for you. I know of instances where out of 40 seats booked 20 people turn up so how do you replace them?

“There are more places taking deposits but there’s a lot of admin around that and there’s a lot of cost doing that. I think that’s the way a lot of operators are going to go to make sure people are going to turn up.”

Hillhead Bookclub in the west end of Glasgow has tried deposits but to little avail.

"At the beginning when we opened the no-shows were through the roof. You’re looking at 800 covers booked in and by the end of the day I would say half of them wouldn't show up and hardly any of them would phone to let you know,” said general manager David Robertson.

“Some of these people had paid deposits and when you phone to contact them to ask what they want done with the deposits you still don't hear back from them. These people are spending £20 to hold a table and don’t even ask for their money back.

“Now it's a lot better and I think things have calmed down but when we initially reopened it was quite frustrating because you're trying to plan a rota and you're trying to make sure you're sufficiently staffed and you’re having to send people home or overspend on your labour because you’ve asked three guys to come in and you don’t want to mess them about because they need hours as well so it puts you in a very difficult position.”

Robertson urged restaurant and bar-goers to contact businesses beforehand if they need to cancel.

Paul Beveridge, owner of Japanese restaurant Ramen Dayo! in Glasgow's Ashton Lane agrees.

He said for a small business like his, even a few no-shows can be damaging.

He said: "I think we have a couple of no-shows everyday. And of course, it does impact us as we're such a small restaurant.

"We only have five tables so if one or two don't turn up that can really impact it. It can be the difference between a £2000 night and a £1500 night."

Beveridge said no-shows can mean empty restaurants turning away customers.

Leon Thompson, executive director of UK Hospitality Scotland, suggested the recommended two-hour slots for customers in bars and restaurants may be part of the reason why no-shows, and particularly spread-booking, are seeing such a boom.

He said: “At the moment business can ill afford this kind of behaviour from customers. Hospitality has been one of the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic.

“Having no-shows is a major challenge for businesses. What we are seeing here is people making spread-bookings. It’s not totally clear why people are doing that but it could be people are trying to keep their options open as many businesses use the two-hour guidance.

“People might book two-hour slots then find they can stay beyond the two hours and which then means they don’t need the booking they made later.

“We would really urge people to consider the businesses and consider those people working in the businesses because it's not just lost revenue for the businesses it's lost wages for the workers as well potentially.

“If people do need to cancel just give the businesses as much notice as possible. Hospitality really needs peoples support right now.”

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Thompson said the problem is likely worse for bars than it is for restaurants as bookings are new for bars.

He added: “I think the bar side are experiencing a greater number as it is not usually how people socialise. They usually just arrive at a bar but now we have to book. Hopefully, once we get to August 9 we will see some of these restrictions, if not all, disappear.

“It’s been an ongoing issue since business reopened. It has been considerably damaging for businesses and damaging for workers. Because of a shortage of workers in hospitality right now this means a lot of people are turning up for shifts and then they are not required and this means they are going to be out of pocket so this is a major issue and has huge implications for businesses.

“Going forward we will return to a degree of normality with people no longer having to book to go to a pub and hopefully that will mean these issues will fall away as people can walk up to bars in the way we did before the pandemic.”