New data from guest experience and reservation platform SevenRooms reveals that despite recent cancellations and no-shows, restaurants and hospitality venues are doing better than when Australia was first shut down by the pandemic in 2020.
Restaurant cancellations and no-shows down
It’s good news, as the nation and the sector continue to be battered by the current Omicron outbreak. While the SevenRooms’ study found cancellation rates spiked across Australia at 20.4 per cent during December/January 2022, it’ less than a third of the impact felt in March 2020, when cancellations hit 66 per cent.
With NSW and Victoria bearing the brunt of the outbreak, Sydney and Melbourne’s venues were the most affected by cancellations over the past few months, clocking up 26 per cent and 23 per cent respectively. Still, this figure is well below the 48 per cent and 75 per cent cancellations experienced when the coronavirus crisis emerged in March 2020.
Aussies flock to support local restaurants
The data reveals Australians have swung into action to support their favourite restaurants. The average monthly covers per venue in December 2021 was 28 per cent higher than in December 2019, and 38 per cent higher in November 2021 compared to November 2019.
Paul Hadida, General Manager APAC at SevenRooms said the data shows the resiliency of the sector and the support it has had from Australians. He tells Kochie’s Business Builders (KBB) restaurants are leveraging a number of strategies to counteract the impact of no-shows and cancellations as Omicron continues to spread.
Cancellation policies essential
“Since the pandemic, many restaurants have implemented cancellation policies. This often involves requesting a deposit upon booking, or in some cases a strike system where if a guest cancels, for example, three times they are banned from booking for a certain period of time,” explains Hadida.
“Venues should also be incentivising bookings. Whether it’s offering guests discounts on arrival for their booking, a special offer if they refer a friend or a complimentary offer for when they next order delivery. These are excellent ways to acquire, engage and retain guests, giving them the exceptional and memorable experiences that turn one-off customers into regulars,” he says.
From no-show to new customer
Hadida suggests another great tactic is for restaurants to operate a “wait-list”.
“With capped numbers of people allowed to dine in due to restrictions and social distancing measures, it means many venues are operating at minimum capacity. To deal with last-minute cancellations and no-shows, venues can reference their wait-list feature and quickly and easily refill the booking. We’ve also seen an increase in online ordering for pick-up and delivery options. This gives guests who may not feel comfortable dining in still the option to order from their favourite restaurant,” Hadida says.
“Lastly, we’ve seen great success in reminding customers about their upcoming reservations. This is a simple text message or email, depending on the customer’s preference, reminding them about their booking.”
Technology is the secret sauce for restaurant survival
Hadida tells KBB SevenRooms’ data paints a picture of the resiliency of the hospitality industry. He says technology will be key to the sector’s survival and revival as it continues to face the challenges of COVID-19.
“Leveraging technology helps venues mitigate challenges and provide excellent services, whether they’re in lockdown, reopening safely and successfully, or building long-term strategies to acquire, engage and retain more customers. Leveraging the right technology allows operators to create more personalised experiences for guests across every touchpoint, and we’re certainly seeing that Australian venues are ahead of many other markets in this regard,” says Hadida.
“Technology is also crucial in the ongoing battle against staff shortages,” he adds. ” In an industry that relies heavily on international travelers and visa holders, this will continue to be an issue. However, technology is key and allows operators to do more with less. By automating tasks, reducing admin and driving operation efficiencies, technology empowers staff without impacting the meaningful experiences guests demand.”
How can you help your fave local restaurant?
So what can consumers do to support hospitality venues during the crisis, particularly if they feel unsafe leaving their homes? Hadida’s answer is simple, ditch the third-party apps and go direct.
“To support local, we encourage consumers to order directly from their favourite restaurant or cafe. Rather than using third-party delivery and booking platforms, ordering and booking directly from a venue can not only save the individual money, but help give back to supporting local businesses. If consumers are worried about dining in at a venue or feel unsafe, there are always pickup or delivery options available,” he concludes.
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