The owner of a fish and chip restaurant in East Lothian has expressed his complete frustration following 45 no shows at lunchtime on Sunday.
Carlo Crolla of East Coast in Musselburgh arrived for work on Sunday only to be told by his manager that 70% of his lunchtime bookings hadn’t turned up.
“Evening service was fine, everyone turned up, but at lunchtime the restaurant was empty, we had four tables in and five chefs standing in the kitchen doing nothing.
“It’s so frustrating. I’m angry and I’m fed up. We’d ordered all the stock, we’d done all the prep and I’d staffed accordingly.
“What people don’t realise is that livelihoods are at risk because of this. Part of the problem is they don’t think about the impact it has on a business. They think we’ll just give the table away but it’s not as easy as that.”
Carlo says it's a problem that’s been brewing since the first lockdown eased and one which is driven by a number of factors. He explains: “We call everyone that doesn’t turn up and it’s a combination of them not answering the phone, answering and saying that person doesn’t live there, or sometimes the phone number doesn’t exist.
“Because the weather was good over the weekend people maybe thought no, we’re not going to sit in a restaurant. I also think it’s people booking numerous places and deciding on the day where to go, and with the fake numbers it could be competitors making fake bookings. It’s a combination of everything.”
Carlo isn’t keen on taking deposits up front, instead he would simply appreciate notice if customers change their minds.
“We’re a local, family-run business and introducing a booking fee is not a route we want to go down,” he says. “We get 80-year-old couples coming to us for date night and I think that might put that generation off if they have to pay a booking fee upfront.
“It takes nothing to pick up the phone and let us know if you’re not coming.”
On Sunday, Carlo took to Facebook to express his disappointment and has had nothing but support since, with one customer even emailing him to point out she had left the wrong contact number for her booking.
Carlo adds: “If it wasn’t for the publicity on Sunday, this person wouldn’t have bothered to send this. I knew it would get a reaction, I always try and turn a negative into a positive."