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The Pre-Planned Night Out

Planned Night Out 2 (1)

With government restrictions reducing venue capacity for much of the year so far, booking ahead has become an essential part of planning a night out.

And it looks like it’s a trend that’s here to stay. 44% report that they are more likely to plan a night out in detail than they were before 2020. But, with late cancellations and ‘no show’ bookings increasingly common, some venues have reported that this trend is putting unexpected strain on their business.

In this article, we look at the impact ‘no-shows’ and last-minute cancellations have had on hospitality and explore ways venues can future proof bookings by capitalising on an emerging trend for pre-planned nights out.

The Impact of No-Shows

May 17th saw indoor dining return for venues in England. However, there were still safety measures in place, such as group bookings limited to 6 people, table service only and masks required when moving around. Despite this, many consumers returned to the On-Trade with confidence. An eagerness to return to venues, combined with a shortage of space and time limits on tables, prompted costumers to plan their visits in advance. However, it was reported that 14% of consumers did not fulfil their bookings, with 8% admitting to being a ‘no-show’.

Reasons for not turning up ranged from unpredictable weather to difficulty cancelling, with a significant number of consumers admitted to overbooking by reserving places at multiple venues with the plan to skip or cancel. Unfortunately, a predicted rise in ‘no-shows’ could cost UK restaurant owners a whopping £6.2m in the coming weeks.

The emergence of the ‘pre-planned night’

Spontaneous nights out are seemingly a thing of the past, with the CGA reporting  a 41% increase in the proportion of consumers pre-booking for food and a 29% increase for drinks.

So, there seems to be a strong appetite for consumers to feel secure when planning a night out. But how can operators capitalise on this trend and drive customers to their venue? We think capturing their attention at the point of booking, way before they set foot in the door, will be key. Here’s a few suggestions:

  1. Engage digitally

Your audience is going to be found online more than ever. Engage with them digitally and get their attention while browsing. This could be via social media, advertising, your website or email marketing. Facebook groups are increasingly important too – take a look at our guide.

  1. Incentivise customers

Competition is fierce, so give your customers a reason to choose to book with your venue over another. This could be something like a free drink on arrival or discount on their bill. Figure out which works best for you.  Incentivising customers can also give you another way to attract customers through word-of-mouth and social media. A customer that has booked in advance will surely post about the free glass of Bottega they received on arrival!

  1. Send reminders

When customers are making their booking, remind them that they must let you know if they are unable to make their booking and explain how to get in touch. It is also beneficial to send a text message or email on the day of their booking to remind them and explain how to cancel should they need to.

  1. Allow easy cancellation – it’s better than a no-show!

Many customers said they didn’t cancel their booking because it was too difficult to. So, make it easy for customers to know how to cancel – whether that be via email, phone, text message or clicking a button on your website. A cancelled booking is better than a booking that doesn’t show!

  1. Use information from bookings to retarget customers

Capture data from customers when they book so that you may use it to retarget them at a later point – whether they cancelled or not – and drive return visits. Of course, be sure to make sure that any details you gather from customers are managed in line with GDPR.  

Bookings have always been a challenge for the hospitality sector, even before COVID-19. While the trend for a planned night out may wane as we move away from the pandemic era, the desire for a perfectly planned evening will live on. With Christmas looming, many customers are already planning their evenings out in December! Don’t miss out on the opportunity to capture you customers at the point of booking and promote loyalty and let’s look forward to a bumper end to 2021!

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About the author

Mary McCarron

Mary works in digital marketing for Matthew Clark. After a couple of years working in tech, she found her way back to the hospitality industry and can now be found talking all things cocktails, spirits, beer, softs and more across our website and social media.

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