OTIS owner hopes no-shows aren’t the ‘new normal’

Max O'Driscoll 15 November 2021 47
Owner and executive chef of OTIS Damian Brabender

Owner and executive chef of OTIS Damian Brabender. Photo: Megan Evans.

Imagine this.

You’re the owner of a restaurant and you’ve been closed for the last two months. You’re allowed to open again, but with a modest 25 guests.

The guest limit means you won’t be able to cover your costs, but you open anyway so your staff can return to work after they’ve done it tough throughout the lockdown. You open for bookings, and quickly, spots at your venue become hard to come by.

Then, on one night, 10 out of 25 booked guests fail to arrive.

That was the reality on Wednesday night (27 October) for OTIS Dining Hall owner Damian Brabender, who was understandably frustrated by how the evening transpired.

“When you have 10 people out of 25 no-show, you’re literally going backwards. That’s 40 per cent of your guests not showing up and if you have to add that to your cost of goods and your staffing levels, if the government was to say you can open your restaurant to 15 people, you wouldn’t open,” said Mr Brabender.

He worries that we’re about to see the new variant of panic buying, ‘panic booking’.

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“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Mr Brabender. “People are panic booking at the moment and we’ve gone from panic buying to panic booking. People are all excited about booking restaurants and going out, but some people are actually booking multiple restaurants and then choosing which one they want to go to.

“It’s disappointing that as we enter the ‘new normal’ or whatever you want to call it, people aren’t as united as they were going into lockdown,” he said.

With the rule changes on Friday, 29 October, OTIS can now seat approximately 40 guests, which will allow them to open five days a week and serve hundreds of guests. Pleading on behalf of the hospitality industry, he stressed the importance of being respectful over the coming weeks and months.

“As you venture out again tonight, no matter what restaurant you are lucky enough to have scored a booking in, remember that the staff have been sitting on the sidelines for a long time now, eagerly waiting to get back to it,” he said. “They want you to have a great time, and they deserve to too. Tip your waitstaff, show up for your booking, leave nice reviews and enjoy yourselves.”

Many restaurants at the minute are taking small deposits on bookings, but even that formula fails to cover the loss of revenue created by no-shows.

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47 Responses to OTIS owner hopes no-shows aren’t the ‘new normal’
Yinan Zhang Yinan Zhang 11:56 pm 31 Oct 21

I absolutely sympathize with small businesses who have been hit by the lockdown. I say this from running a business myself. However, I just want to speak from a place of compassion, that just because lockdown has ended & people have been vaccinated, that doesn't mean COVID no longer and hasn't affected the mental health/psych of many. People are hesitant and flakey post lock down as they are often two minds about things: the risk and benefit of going out, to spend or not to spend as they too may have been affected by lockdown. Perhaps they have also fallen onto a bad schedule/habit & find it hard to make themselves get to places on time. Lock down just ended , give people a chance. From the bottom of my heart, I think most people are good but COVID has made us all desperate in one way or another. We should continue to have kindness & humility for one another. Difficult times will pass, not by punishing people but to have genuine dialogues with people for why they behave the way they do.

Daisy Chain Daisy Chain 8:47 pm 31 Oct 21

That really is disappointing shows their ignorance. These guys haven’t had income for so long and to have people book their limited places & not turn up is unforgivable. Selfish.

It’s just a phone call.

kenbehrens kenbehrens 7:27 pm 31 Oct 21

There are plenty of people talking about $100 deposits.
The wife and I have never spent $100 on a meal, in our lives.
I guess we aren’t the target market and aren’t going to get a table.

Randy Goldberg Randy Goldberg 6:18 pm 31 Oct 21

In the current climate, these places should take credit card deposits when bookings are made with a condition that they become non-refundable 24-48 hours before the booking's time.

Nicole Patterson Nicole Patterson 4:06 pm 31 Oct 21

That’s disgusting and people should be held accountable!

Majority of restaurants I work with in Canberra are enforcing a 12 or 24 hour cancellation policy, taking credit card details upon booking. If they cancel within that period via the online widget the system automatically charges the customer so no work involved by your staff. If they no show you have the details to charge them with one click of a button.

If you have 12 or 24 hour cancellation policy it then at least gives you a chance to fill that table with your Standby List.

Covid has given power back to the restaurants to dictate what is reasonable. With the right online booking platform you can make that happen seamlessly.


Nina Bee Nina Bee 10:51 pm 30 Oct 21

How hard is it to ring up and cancel, it's like there's no basic etiquette around anymore.

Angie Fearon Angie Fearon 9:39 pm 30 Oct 21

I had to pay a deposit of $80/head... lost if we were more than 20 mins late...

I think the 20 mins was a bit harsh

    Josephine Root Josephine Root 12:46 pm 31 Oct 21

    Angie Fearon seems reasonable to me

    Angie Fearon Angie Fearon 6:48 pm 31 Oct 21

    Maybe I wasn't clear, they give your table away if you're 20 mins late & take your $$. One or the other I think is fair. Not both.

Wini Harrison Wini Harrison 6:45 pm 30 Oct 21

Deposit mate make them pay for wasting your time.

    Kerry Apted Kerry Apted 6:49 pm 30 Oct 21

    Wini Harrison read the other comments for a response to this.

    Wini Harrison Wini Harrison 6:49 pm 30 Oct 21

    Kerry Apted why I'm just commenting what I think 🤣🤣.

Tina Carroll Tina Carroll 6:32 pm 30 Oct 21

That's so rude!

Tom Adam Tom Adam 5:36 pm 30 Oct 21

Yes, it’s a massive issue. I have had 50% of our bookings for new people to join my Martial Arts & Fitness club not show up too over the past week.

The ultimate thing was said by the manager of a restaurant I visited last week though.

He essentially said that it’s not just the lost income from their not showing up, it’s the wages, the overheads and worst of all - the lost opportunity for someone else to attend that really wanted to.

I do believe that people who book, and then not show up (and I throwing in the people who cancel with no good reason 5mins before their booking) as selfish. Which is sadly something that has become more prevalent over the years in Canberra.

I’ve said it before, but come on Canberra. Don’t make a booking if you have no intention of going.

Aaron Jones Aaron Jones 5:13 pm 30 Oct 21

Is this restaurant only taking bookings from vaxxxed customers?

    Damian Vianney Brabender Damian Vianney Brabender 5:17 pm 30 Oct 21

    Aaron Jones I’m confused by how that would be of any relevance to the article or topic at hand.

    Aaron Jones Aaron Jones 5:18 pm 30 Oct 21

    Damian Vianney Brabender because there are groups of people targeting restaurants that discriminate and booking them up only to no show on them.

    David Tredinnick David Tredinnick 5:21 pm 30 Oct 21

    Aaron Jones why should that make a difference?

    Damian Vianney Brabender Damian Vianney Brabender 5:38 pm 30 Oct 21

    Aaron Jones we do not have any mandatory requirements for any guests in relation to vaccination status as it is not required to do so in the ACT.

    Dan Rayner Dan Rayner 7:28 pm 30 Oct 21

    Aaron are you specifically on the look out for such restaurants?

    Kathleen Beck Kathleen Beck 1:24 am 31 Oct 21

    Dan Rayner Read his second post, there are people no showing at restaurants because 'Waaaaah I don't want to be vaxxed'

SP Brogues SP Brogues 5:00 pm 30 Oct 21

That is just fing rude. Make sure you take pre credit card payments and have 20mins to show up for their table otherwise it goes to someone else.

Dan Power Dan Power 4:44 pm 30 Oct 21

Yep $100 deposit on booking per head- that will cure that!

Tony O'Mara Tony O'Mara 4:05 pm 30 Oct 21

Happening all over the country need CC for booking

Matt Elliston Matt Elliston 3:58 pm 30 Oct 21

Utterly disrespectful of the realities of small business, much less a post lockdown business trying to bounce back. Good luck to you OTIS Dining Hall.

    Nicholas Feeney Nicholas Feeney 7:08 pm 30 Oct 21

    Pest Ellingston are you talking about the no shows or the ridiculous capacity limits imposed on us but not a extremely close neighbours. You can fix the problem if you fix the cause.

Christine Warren Christine Warren 3:53 pm 30 Oct 21

So unfair of those who made bookings and then didn’t front - and totally inconsiderate!!

Peppi Wilson Peppi Wilson 3:41 pm 30 Oct 21

That’s just rude and very unfair. Sorry you have to put up with that.

Sher Bee Sher Bee 3:21 pm 30 Oct 21

I hope you keep a list of the No Show people, something restaurants can share. Future bookings from the No show people should be placed on your wait list or be told sorry we can’t book you a table

Katy Grimes Katy Grimes 3:11 pm 30 Oct 21

They shouldn’t be - its crap behaviour

Rosie Maclaine Rosie Maclaine 3:09 pm 30 Oct 21

That’s not good need to charge up front holding deposit

    Damian Vianney Brabender Damian Vianney Brabender 3:12 pm 30 Oct 21

    Rosie Maclaine even when restaurants charge deposits and holding fees some people demand it to be refunded and threaten the business with online negative reviews. The issue is not a lack of process, the issue is the lack of respect shown to service industries.

    Rosie Maclaine Rosie Maclaine 3:26 pm 30 Oct 21

    Damian Vianney Brabender so disrespectful particularly when we are all navigating out of lockdown. I sincerely hope it improves for you tough enough without have no shows 😢

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