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By Katie McCann
Let me guess…
You’re here because you’ve experienced one too many no-shows. You’re tired of having to turn guests away for others who eventually don’t bother to show up or cancel a reservation at short notice. It’s costing you business, and more importantly, revenue.
And now, you’re wondering if being a restaurant with walk-in seating only is the solution to your problems of lost revenue.
Wonder no further.
This post will:
But first, what exactly does it mean to be a restaurant that only offers walk-in seating? And what does this look like in your restaurant?
Let’s explore this idea.
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Being a restaurant with walk-in seating only means you don’t take any restaurant reservations and instead adopt a first-come, first-serve policy. With this policy, patrons can expect to wait in line, especially during peak restaurant hours and when visiting popular restaurants in their neighborhood that are always at maximum capacity.
The concept of refusing to do reservations is nothing new. The New York Times reported about it way back in 2010. Several restaurants in New York like Má Pêche, Breslin, and Fatty’s all embraced a walk-in seating only policy.
Since then, many other restaurants have also followed suit. The Washington Post reported how Washington D.C., for example, has become filled with restaurants not taking any reservations.
While there certainly has been growth in the number of restaurants saying “no” to reservations, the reactions from people to this policy were mixed in 2010 and remain mixed today. Some absolutely love it and others find it utterly infuriating.
There’s a clear difference in opinion over whether to implement a walk-in only policy. So how do you know whether it’s right for your restaurant?
When trying to answer this question, one of the best places to start is listing both the pros and cons.
Reviewing both the pros and cons of restaurants with walk-in seating gives you all the information you need to help you make an informed decision about whether walk-in seating is right for you or not.
But, you still need to actually make that final decision yourself.
The good news? There are a few guidelines that will simplify your decision. Answer the following questions to help you decide if walk-in seating only is right for you:
Your customers are the ones that make or break your restaurant, so it makes sense to get feedback from them if you plan to change your policy to no reservations.
If the majority of your target market consists of customers who will not like this policy (like older customers or families), it’s probably wise not to implement it as the drawbacks of losing your core customers and revenue will far outweigh the benefits of not having no-shows.
2. Are You Regularly at Capacity?
You have a steady stream of regulars from lunch to late-night, and even then the regulars have been known to fight for the good seats.
If you have lots of regular volume and have no issues filling tables, then a no-reservation option may work for you.
3. What Is Your Restaurant Type and Concept?
This is arguably one of the most critical questions you need to answer.
Generally, casual restaurants with reasonably priced menus or even trendy establishments with a unique concept that people are happy to wait in line for are a perfect fit for a walk-in seating only policy.
On the flip side, only offering walk-in seating won’t work well for fine-dining restaurants as these diners expect a certain level of exclusivity and don’t want to wait in a queue.
A potential downfall of taking reservations is the risk of these customers being no shows and you losing revenue because you have to turn customers away.
The good news is that a correctly implemented reservation system can actually solve the problems of no-shows so that you don’t even have to consider a no-reservations policy in the first place.
The right reservation system will help you reduce and manage no-shows by:
The right system also offers other features that will improve your customer experience, help you manage your operations, and boost your bottom line. Some of these features give you the ability to:
No-shows are part and parcel of running any restaurant that accepts reservations. But, because these no-shows translate into lost business, restaurants are always looking for ways to reduce or eliminate them altogether.
So, when deciding whether to offer walk-in only seating or not make sure you review the pros and cons to help you make an informed decision. Don’t forget to use the following key factors to guide your decision: your customers, your concept, and the risk of missing out on new customers.
And finally, remember this: The right reservation system will solve most of your problems with no-show. This way, you don’t have to contemplate a no-reservation policy in the first place and risk losing any customers in the process.
Katie is a former Content Marketing Specialist at TouchBistro where she writes about food and restaurant experiences. She doesn’t shy away from the finer things in life, but no matter how much success she continues to acquire, she stays true to her roots and still considers imitation crab as gourmet. If she isn’t writing, you can find her on a patio with friends and a pitcher of white wine sangria.
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