Trends in guest behaviour and the advanced bookings struggle
Updated: Mar 15, 2018
There’s long been a struggle in the hospitality business with the supplier trying to coerce the consumer’s behaviour and the consumer ultimately fighting back.
In the hotel industry advanced bookings with cancellation rights and no show fees have been the norm for decades. Yet the consumer fight back on long cancellation notice periods and high no show fees has led to this becoming a point of differentiation;
“Book with us and cancel up to 1pm on day of arrival”.
“No cancellation fees on this deal”.
Whilst this still prevails we now seem to have settled into a world where the consumer is given the choice;
An advanced booking price with no cancellation rights.
A slightly higher price with some cancellation rights.
An even higher price with complete cancellation rights, often termed a “flexi” rate.
The restaurant industry is also enduring a similar battle and has been for some time. This isn’t just industry news but is also reported in mainstream news and well documented on social media:
2012 Big Hospitality Article: Are advanced booking websites to blame?
2017 Big Hospitality Article: Reducing no shows.
2018 Telegraph Article: Naming and shaming no shows.
Consumers own personal preferences will no doubt have a big influence on behaviours and there are also significant regional variations as well with some towns where advanced bookers are consistently late, and others where they’re consistently on time.
In my case I loathe making advanced reservations as I like to enjoy an evening on my own schedule without clock watching, that way if I fancy another beer before dinner I can. My wife on the other hand always wants to make advance reservations not least because “you can’t go anywhere these days unless you do”. My view is “we’ll just eat somewhere else”, if we can’t get into wherever we were hoping to as ultimately this flexibility is more important to me.
In response to these issues the restaurant industry is currently experimenting with both; no shows fees and pre-ordering apps – whereby ultimately you’re at the table for less time and an extra service can potentially be squeezed in. Albeit there are other ways; some restaurants have experimented with not giving 7pm tables (the most popular request) to nudge the customer to go for either 6pm or 8pm so that an extra service can be secured on the same table.
Second Guest was founded on the premise that there has to be a better way to solve these problems with modern technology. Scale back the advance bookings, de-risk the no shows and cancellations and instead place your walk-in customers in a virtual queue where they can be kept engaged and updated whilst enjoying a beer, or any other activity they fancy, be it on or off your premises.
Ask a few of your guests today what they would prefer, I’m confident you’ll be surprised by the response. Even my chiropractor wants to know of restaurants using our system close to where he lives!