Consumers are putting much more planning into their eating and drinking out since lockdown eased, CGA’s new Consumer Pulse survey showed – but the fresh emphasis on reservations is hitting the sector with a wave of no-shows.

The survey showed more than one-quarter (28%) of consumers visited venues with no reservations in the ten days after hospitality reopened on 4 July.

People also appear to be keeping visits short, with the average dwell time in venues little more than an hour (67 minutes). However, the research also revealed 5% of all adults in England have made a table reservation but didn’t turn up without informing the venue.

Another 5% made a table reservation only to cancel – so among those who have gone out about one in six has failed to fulfil a reservation.

Those who haven’t turned up for a booking cited embarrassment about cancelling and concerns about safety as reasons for failing to do so. However, the survey revealed an acceptance among consumers for mandatory deposits on pre-booking.

Almost three-fifths (58%) of English adults would be happy to pay a £5 per head deposit when making reservations, a figure that jumps to more than three-quarters (78%) for those consumers who had admitted to cancelling or not showing up for a reserved booking. 

Almost one-fifth (19%) said such a scheme would be off-putting. The survey also had optimistic signs for hospitality’s recovery, with more than one-third (34%) of consumers returning to the on-trade in the first ten days and an increasing inclination to visit more than a single venue in a trip.

Rachel Weller, CGA head of consumer research and marketing, said: “The pandemic has triggered a seismic shift in consumer behaviour from spontaneity to planning. It is clear operators are going to need to adjust quickly to this new era and mandatory deposits may just be the solution.”