15 November 2021

OTIS owner hopes no-shows aren't the 'new normal'

| Max O'Driscoll
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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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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.

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