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Canberra restaurants air frustration at reservation no-shows

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Canberra restaurants already struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic say no-shows are crippling their business, and are forcing them to change the way they operate.

Owner of Civic’s Briscola Italian Gianni Guglielmin says he has had people reserve tables and fail to turn up on a weekly basis since dining restrictions came into place, with two tables in the last week alone being groups of seven people or more.

“Those tables take up nearly half of the seventeen patrons we’re allowed to seat due to the current restrictions [of one person per four square metres] – we already operate with a restricted ability to turnover income,” Gianni says.

“Most people are doing the right thing, but often cancellations are given so late that you don’t have the opportunity to re-fill the seats. The worst excuse I received after calling a late arrival was: ‘I was going to call, but we stayed longer than expected at the winery, so just decided not to come anymore.’ This was during the 10 patron limit.”

Gianni says the no-shows have prompted him to implement a credit card deposit system for Friday and Saturday night bookings.

“If restrictions continue, we may consider other measures,” he says.

“Most restaurateurs don’t want to introduce restrictive dining policies as they’re labour intensive to implement and off-putting to customers. Thankfully most diners are understanding and very supportive.”

Co-owner of Braddon’s Bentspoke Brewing Co Tracy Margrain says they introduced a $40 deposit booking system when restrictions were announced, and it has worked well so far with very few cancellations or no-shows.

“Some people question the deposit but we’ve found 90 per cent of people are happy to pay it. When they come in, they get the deposit back to go towards their meal,” Tracy says.

“If they cancel, we reschedule it for them, and the money can go towards that. But we have found the majority of people are showing up to their bookings.”

Tracy says she would “definitely” recommend this type of policy to other businesses during these unprecedented times.

“We all want to get through to the other side after the pandemic,” she says.

“In order to keep staff on and doors open, this helps us assess how we operate under limited capacity.”

Top tips for dining during COVID-19, as provided by Gianni of Briscola Italian

  • Turn up on time – not early, not late
  • Be patient during a change-over of sittings
  • Only stay for your allotted time, if applicable
  • Consider dining on weeknights instead of weekends
  • Order takeaway early
  • Come out for a good time

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