During the seemingly endless months of lockdown the idea of gazing lustfully at a restaurant menu, deliberating over what someone else will prepare for us, while drinking in the ambience of being somewhere other than our own four walls felt like a distant dream.

Finally, the time has come when we can stop staring despondently into our own pitifully stocked fridges and press that glorious green button to book ‘the table by the window’ in our favourite gastro pub or restaurant.

Relieved to be able to open their doors once more, bars and restaurants are delighted to be able to welcome back their customers. But, for many, preparing to re-open has been no mean feat. 

Put customers at ease with scheduled in-store audio messages
Put customers at ease with background music specifically curated to enhance relaxation.

Far from simply re-setting the tables, switching on the background music and firing up the ovens, a whole new list of considerations now needs addressing. Re-configured ‘socially distant’ seating plans, reduced menus that work in-line with kitchen size, screens, one way systems and increased deep cleaning have all had to be implemented, not to mention the unenviable task of finding a way to balance the books on a limited amount of covers. 

Although we are becoming rapidly familiar with these protective measures in our day-to-day life, until now we have only experienced them on a practical ‘needs must’ basis. To voice the elephant in the room – our new cautionary way of living can feel quite stressful, so how can we re-adjust to allowing ourselves to relax in public?

The ‘no show’ Nation

Despite the anticipation for the re-opening of restaurants, a surprising number of diners are pressing the green button, then failing to pass go. Since lockdown has eased, restaurants are seeing floods of bookings, but then only a mere trickle of customers are turning up to eat. Posting on Instagram, TV chef Tom Kerridge highlights how this behaviour is putting even more unnecessary stress on the hospitality industry:

"This industry, like many others is on the verge of collapse. Your behaviour is disgraceful, short sighted and downright unhelpful... all of you “no shows” in all restaurants up and down the country are adding to the issues already being faced...”

Tom Kerridge, TV chef

Kerridge is not the only restauranteur suffering from the lack of commitment from diners, Michelin starred chef Paul Ainsworth also took to social media, elaborating on the consequences of the 27 ‘no shows’ at his restaurant The Mariners on Tuesday night:

“After the efforts our teams have put into making our restaurants a safe environment and the money Emma and I have spent to make it possible. Disappointed doesn’t even cut it! To those 27 people who thought it was ok not to show tonight and that no one would miss you. You are very wrong. We were ready for you. The restaurant rota had been written for you. The team were waiting to welcome and take care of you.” 


“We currently employ 132 family members, we haven’t made one single redundancy, these people rely on Emma and I to pay their mortgages, rents, bills and many of them are the sole income earners for their families. So, the number of people you are affecting is far greater than the 132 employed.”


“This post is insight to the real cost of a NO SHOW.”

Paul Ainsworth, Michelin starred chef of The Mariners at Rock, Cornwall

Increased awareness of the consequences of a ‘no show’ will hopefully help address the scale of the issue and encourage diners to commit to their booking. However, this unfortunate ‘trend’ highlights a potentially bigger issue – there is clearly a desire to dine out but with a greater worry of doing so.

And relax…

The reality is, after months of lockdown it may take a bit more than deep cleaning and social distancing to reassure apprehensive diners that it really is okay to relax over a meal again.

One way to address this is by looking past the practical elements and considering the emotional side of the dining experience. Psychological studies have long acknowledged the connection between relaxation and music – even suggesting that the right music can effectively reduce levels of stress and anxiety by up to 65% – highlighting that background music could be particularly beneficial in current times. Implementing music, or even making a subtle adjustment to include more laid-back tracks onto your current playlist can make a big difference to the mood of a space, ultimately helping customers relax back into the dining experience. 

Hopefully it won’t be too long before these uncertain times are over and we are flocking back to restaurants without a second thought. In the meantime, spare a thought for the poor staff waiting on unfilled tables. We all pined for our beloved restaurants to re-open so now it’s time to put our money where our mouths are!