What are consumers willing to compromise on to ensure a booking?

A report by, Steven Pike, Managing Director, HGEM

Consumers willing to compromise for booking but may not be more forgiving.

The lockdown roadmap is set to finally allow hospitality to reopen its doors for outdoor dining on April 12th, there is no doubt that many operators are scrambling to get their venues ready. With unprecedented consumer demand, demonstrated by some beer gardens already being booked out for months, there’s a lot of pressure riding on reopening. Guest Experience Management experts HGEM surveyed a panel of consumers to help alleviate some of those pressures.

The results of the survey revealed that consumers are more willing to accept additional booking terms, such as deposits, time limits and minimum spends, in comparison to pre-pandemic times, but it’s a fallacy to believe they’d be more forgiving of minor service blunders.


63% of consumers are happy to book with a deposit, in contrast to 30% in 2019 – a huge shift in consumer mindset. When setting a booking strategy, it’s important to consider key demographics, as people in older age groups respond more positively to the idea of paying a deposit to book, whereas young people are less inclined. Only 50% Gen Z (18-25) respondents said they were happy to book with a deposit. The rate follows an upward trend, increasing to 56% between ages 26-45, 72% between the ages 46-65, and peaking at 80% for people over 66.

Another important question – how much to ask for a deposit, so that it covers some of the potentially lost income, whilst not putting customers off? Almost half (47%) of our panel said they were happy to pay up to £5 per person, 42% were happy to pay up to £10 per person and 9% thought it would be acceptable to pay up to £15 per person for a deposit.

Time limit & minimum spend

Managing a surge of bookings is a challenge, with good time management being the key success factor, as tables must be turned on time, lest you keep customers having to queue for a table they already booked. With limited covers, restaurateurs and publicans also want to ensure the bookings are profitable, as nobody wants to turn away big spenders, whilst the venue is booked with less profitable tables.

Having time limits or minimum spends in place for bookings is a good way to mitigate these issues, and the good news is, over three-quarters of consumers (77%) are happy to oblige, with 53% of all respondents ready to keep this up until hospitality re-opens fully, whilst almost a quarter gave no time limit. What’s fascinating is that people are now more willing to settle for a time limit than they did over Christmas 2020, when that figure was 62%. Only half of Gen Z respondents said they’d agree to spend or time restrictions, whereas customers aged 36-55 were most happy to comply, with that figure reaching 82%.

Service Blunders

Reinvigorating staff from a long furlough slumber is seen as a key challenge for many operators across the sector, and it will be incredibly difficult for staff to just ‘snap’ back into those roles. However, operators that are reopening on 12th of April must succeed in getting teams back to their best selves before pulling that very first pint, because results from our latest consumer survey show – customers may be less forgiving than you’d think.

Despite 68% saying they would be more forgiving of minor service blunders (e.g. a wrong order or delayed service) because of the pandemic, almost a third of the respondents were unwilling to give any leeway at all. We asked them to rationalise their position and have shared some of their responses below:

“Stop using Covid as an excuse for less than perfect service.”
“Operators have had all year to prepare, and with less covers due to social distancing, service should be even better than before.”

Customers expect their chosen venues to deliver great experiences from day one, otherwise, they might not be returning in May. For more insights, find the full report here.

Steven Pike,
Managing Director, HGEM