Don’t be a spotted Dick. If you book a table, show up! implore bar and restaurant owners

by Editor, Nicky Godding (who loves a good meal out)
Purslane Restaurant in Cheltenham

The pandemic might have taken the spontaneity out of our socialising, as we all have to book well in advance if we fancy eating out, but it shouldn’t have affected our manners or consideration for others.

But sadly it has. According to the Good Food Guide, a quarter of those making online restaurant bookings fail to turn up.

At a time when the industry is struggling in the wake of the pandemic, restaurant owners can ill afford to lose more income.

So don’t be a spotted Dick. Show up, or call in good time and cancel.

Social distancing and strict Covid-secure measures mean fewer diners and that means margins are tighter than ever. With restaurants now having to take advance bookings in order to comply with contact and trace guidelines, it’s harder than ever for venues to replace no-shows with walk-ins – especially with less footfall on the high street – or to resell tables at the last minute.

And restaurants across the region are pleading with punters. The highly regarded fish restaurant in Cheltenham, Purslane, tweeted: “Please can we implore those who cannot honour a booking to contact us and cancel. In the last three weeks we’ve had more no-shows than we would usually have in a year.”

Another Cheltenham restaurant, The Mayflower, added: “No shows can result in redundancy.”

While there could be valid reasons why people don’t honour a booking, and with Covid19 still circulating in the community that’s fair enough. But it shouldn’t stop customers calling to cancel if they need to.

Not doing so is thoughtless, inconsiderate and very bad manners. Most of us wouldn’t forget to show up to a dinner with friends at their home? so give restaurants and their chefs the same respect.

Some restauranteurs think that a few diners are so keen to secure tables in their favoured restaurants that they book multiple venues for traditionally busy days and choose where to go depending on their mood without cancelling the other reservations.

Chefs have to buy food, pay staff and allocate tables in advance. So there is surely now a case for paying in advance too. We have to for theatre tickets and no-one complains, so I for one would be happy to pay for a meal I’m looking forward to.

‘We need to change our business models or die’

Alex Clayton at Tasca DaliAn award-winning restaurateur in Warwick has advised fellow hospitality bosses to ‘change their business models or die’ as the pandemic continues to threaten their futures.

The stark prediction comes ahead of an anticipated delay in the planned full easing of Covid restrictions for June 21st which he blames on ‘Government inaction and incompetence.’

Alex Clayton was forced to close Tasca Dali Spanish restaurant at the start of lockdown, resorting, like many others, to offering meal deliveries to try and keep his business alive.

Since then, despite being allowed to reopen between lockdowns last year, the business has adapted to months of continuous revisions to the guidance including an enforced 1m self-distancing rule, reducing customer capacity by half.

Alex said: “The final lifting of the restrictions is critical for us as a small restaurant. To be running at minimal capacity has a huge impact. We have been through a lot over the last 14 months but I am proud to say we have managed to keep on almost all the team.

“What is difficult to fathom is that the delays are the result of Government slowness to close borders immediately when they detected the variants from India. This means that once again it is the small business that needs to pay for such inaction and incompetence. We are supposed to plan when they cannot.

“At the end of the day, incompetence aside, I do believe we shall have to adapt to a continual serious of mutations and restrictions in what is quickly becoming a very brave new world.

“Since we cannot fight the system and since we put our clients front and centre of everything we do, we shall need to change our business model or die.

“To that end, we have brought in a very flexible booking software which allows greater flexibility in booking times so as many people can come as possible in spite of our limited capacity.”

Tasca DaliStill relying heavily on deliveries to supplement his revenue, Alex has now become the first Spanish restaurant in Warwickshire to add a paella option to his tapas takeaway menu.

Meanwhile, measures in place to make the premises COVID-Secure include tables set on arrival and disinfected between guests, no tablecloths, the use of paper napkins and staff wearing masks.

The restaurant is also one of very few to use a state-of-the-art air cleaning and recirculation system. The NASA technology uses ultra- violet light to sanitise the air as well as the surfaces it lands on.

Tasca Dali has received a clutch of awards during its eight years in High Street, including Spanish Restaurant of the Year in the Birmingham Restaurant Awards.

The team prides itself on authentic and traditional Spanish cooking methods with most of the ingredients including cheeses, hams, chorizos, olive oils sourced from Spain, along with locally sourced meats and fish.

Alex insists on clean cooking, no microwaves, short cuts, colourings or additives.  He said: “It amazes me how many people put colouring in their foods and especially paella – I came across a supposed champion paella maker and when I looked around their kitchen, it was full of stock cubes and colouring. That is not what we do: neither for our tasting menu nor our new delivery menu through our Flamenco brand.”