Suffolk restaurant charging customers who fail to show up for reservations
PUBLISHED: 13:17 24 May 2019 | UPDATED: 14:30 24 May 2019
The Unruly Pig/theunrulypig.co.uk
An award-winning Suffolk restaurant is charging customers who fail to show up for reservations.
The Unruly Pig, in Bromeswell near Woodbridge, introduced the unorthodox system six months ago in response to the 'no show bookers' plaguing the restaurant industry.
Restaurants across the county are losing thousands of pounds each week by saving spaces for customers who simply do not show up.
And The Unruly Pig is leading the fight back.
"We are lucky enough to be busy at the weekends," explained manager Amy Challis. "If a table doesn't show up we are losing business.
"We realise it's a bit unorthodox, I don't believe any other restaurants are doing a similar thing in this area but people have been very understanding of it."
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The restaurant's new policy has replaced the usual deposit system which most venues implement and was dreamed up after 13 tables failed to show up in one day.
When customers make a booking their credit card details are taken.
If they then cancel or fail to show up without giving 24 hours notice or fail to rebook, a £10 charge is issued for every person booked in.
The charges only apply to peak times - between 6.30pm and 9pm on Saturday and 12pm to 4pm on Sunday - as well as bookings of more than eight people.
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"We did get a little bit of a push back when we first started but we reassure customers it is a secure system," added Ms Challis. "We explain it's like booking a hotel room. In the whole time we have had it we have only had to charge someone once or twice.
Customers' card details are stored on a secure database and automatically deleted when they show up for their meal.
Not only has the new system reduced the amount of no-shows at the restaurant but has helped The Unruly Pig save time and money elsewhere.
Ms Challis added: "95% of people don't even blink when we ask them - if you show up there will be no repercussions at all.
"I would 100% recommend it having used the deposit system also.
"Administratively deposits are a complete nightmare and a headache.
"In the past we have rang people to collect deposits and they have had more than one restaurant booked.
"They were planning to decide where to go on the day - it can't work like that."
One man who understands the devastating impact no-shows can have on the industry is David Grimwood.
Having run The Froize in Chillesford for nearly 20 years he has seen the problem rise in recent years.
Between Christmas and New Year's Eve, 50 covers failed to appear - which Mr Grimwood estimates cost his business a minimum of £1,500.
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"It's a massive cost to the business," said Mr Grimwood, "If there are 20 people coming I need 'x' number of staff, but if 50 are coming I need more.
"The amount of food we prepare changes - all the ongoing flexible costs increase for a bigger service.
"It definitely has an impact on the profitability of the business."
Mr Grimwood believes the changes could be attributed to a more general shift in social values.
"I think it's to do with the general breakdown of manners in society," he added.
"It has caused me to question how we do things. We have never taken deposits or credit card numbers.
"All the administration is a nuisance - we have always worked on old fashioned trust."
While Mr Grimwood said he can see the appeal of The Unruly Pig's policy, he won't be following suit any time soon.
Rather he is exploring the possibility of introducing deposits for large parties or people who haven't visited The Froize before.
"I think it's something we have to consider - other than that we just trust people to do the right thing," said Mr Grimwood.
"It's a sad reflection on a small fraction of the populus that we even have to consider it.
"We do enjoy what we do, and things like this we take quite personally - it's just bad form."