Restaurant owners plea for diners' understanding as frustration at 'no shows' sets in

Restaurant and cafe owners, many forced to temporarily close their doors as they worked their way around coronavirus restrictions, are now battling no shows.

At just 10 customers allowed at a time, even a few no shows a night can really hurt.

At retro burger joint Aunty Ed's Restaurant in Katoomba, owners Sian Young and Dwayne Ninnis closed for seven weeks, reopening for takeaway on May 1, and dine-in with a 10-person limit on May 15.

The first weekend of dine-in they were were regularly booked with locals. But the following week the tourists arrived and the no shows started, peaking at four no shows on Saturday, May 23.

"It's people from out of town. They shop around at a lot of venues and at the last minute pick one that they're going to," Ms Young said.

"We just ask for a bit of understanding.

"One or two can ruin a whole night for you."

Aunty Ed's has introduced a $25 per person minimal spend and now a $25 per person, no show fee.

Kelly Walls at The Bootlegger Bar in Katoomba has had a similar experience.

"Last week 40 per cent were no shows," she said.

"We're trying to book in just locals to stop it. The first weekend was 60 per cent no shows. We lost a lot of trade."

Ms Walls said they have considered charging a fee for no shows, but were reluctant to put this in place.

After just opening the business in November, then managing the downturn in trade due to the bushfires, floods, and now coronavirus, they've been desperate to remain open for takeaway throughout the pandemic, but have reduced their staff from 11 to five, with just two eligible for Job Keeper.

"People like our ribs delivered," Ms Walls said.

"To the locals I would say thank you, and they support us really well. To Sydney diners, I would say they need to commit or be courteous and call back [to cancel]."

At Avalon Restaurant, they've also managed to switch to takeaway to continue trading through the pandemic, thanks to a loyal local customer base.

"We've been quite adamant we needed to keep the doors open to still have regular customers and contact with regular customers and keep people employed," said co-owner David Cartwright.

When they re-opened for dine-in, half the bookings which were from non-locals, were no shows. They decided to implement a $50 per person no-show fee.

And the bookings have been rolling in. "On the Saturday night just gone [May 23] we turned away almost 100 people," Mr Cartwright said.

They are looking forward to the further easing of restrictions next week, when they can host 50 diners at one time.

Meanwhile at Blackheath, the Victory Cafe's floor manager David Verrieri said they'd had a good response since reopening on May 22 after a two-month shutdown.

"We don't take bookings so people just come and hope for the best. 99.9 per cent of people are understanding that we can only hold 10 people at a time," he said.