Restaurant bosses say no to 'pay before eat' as bookings soar
- Credit: Archant
Owners of restaurants in Norfolk preparing to reopen as Covid restrictions ease reckon charging customers upfront is "too brutal".
Instead they are prepared to risk no-shows in a bid to win custom.
One restaurateur said bookings "had gone ballistic" with 200 people reserved for his Norwich terrace on the first night of reopening outside on April 12.
Others are imposing cancellation policies after being stung by customers failing to turn up after lockdown lifted last year. One restaurant owner had 80 no shows in the first week of reopening last July.
It comes as restaurants can open outside from April 12 and then inside from May 17 subject to government Covid guidelines changing.
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Iain McCarten, chef and owner of the Last Brasserie, Norwich, who is reopening outside from April 12 initially for lunchtimes only, said: "Pay before you eat is quite brutal, I've worked at places before where they charged you beforehand and if you came in late and those businesses went under.
"But people don't think if they don't turn up, there's a fridge full of food I've ordered in which has a big impact on my business."
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Hannah Springham, who runs the Dial House, Reepham and Farmyard restaurant, Norwich, said: "Our fear is that people will just go to those restaurants who don't enforce it, we just ask that customers respect our industry and cancel rather than not turn up.
"It is a risk; there was one weekend last year when 25 covers didn't show between our two restaurants which was heart-breaking."
Marcus Pearcey, who runs the Oak Bar and Terrace, Oaklands, Norwich and Easthills, Brundall, said: "We can cater for 400-450 people, so we have more flexibility, but if I was a smaller restaurant I'd consider it.
"Demand is going through the roof, bookings are ballistic, I have 200 people booked outside for April 12. But I've had a great product just sitting there. My staff have been looked after, the bills have been paid but I've been living on bread and water."
Tim Roberts, who runs No Twenty9, in Burnham Market which is reopening outside on April 12, said he had imposed a £15 per person late cancellation fee last year. "Asking for a deposit is difficult, it results in a lot of arguing for a little money.
"But after the first week of reopening last July we had 80 no shows in a week. When people know you have their card details, they do abide."