When Hong Kong restaurants were ordered by the government to operate at half capacity and maintain a minimum 1.5-metre space between tables as part of social distancing measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, the already small capacity of many was reduced even further. Couple that with the reluctance of many Hongkongers to leave their homes, and restaurateurs are hurting even more. So it doesn’t help them when people make bookings and then don’t show up, without even calling to cancel. No-shows have long been a problem for restaurants. Danny Yip of The Chairman – recently named #2 on the list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants – says their worst night was a year ago in April, when there were six tables of no-shows. He says the six tables would have amounted to 20 guests in a restaurant that normally seats about 65, so this meant a revenue loss of close to one-third. The guests had confirmed the booking in advance, but didn’t show up on the night, and when staff called to check on their whereabouts, their phone calls went unanswered. When something similar happened last month to Anthony Ng of Nikushou, a yakiniku (grilled beef) restaurant in Causeway Bay, he didn’t mince words when he posted about it on Facebook. At the time, restaurants were still under orders by the government to operate at half capacity, a rule that has since been lifted although they still have to maintain the 1.5 metre gap. Ng says that for two consecutive nights, there was one party of no-shows, at a time when they could only seat about 25. He posted: “I’ve decided to put those people who made reservations at Nikushou but didn’t show up during the pandemic hardship perpetually on our blacklist. Because they are inconsiderate a**holes and only deserve to eat garbage.” One of the popular follow-up suggestions from another poster was to treat the customers the same way if they dared to show up at Nikushou again. “Let them come next time, take their order, but then just never bring their food.” Ng continued: “Instead of sharing the name, I have an idea to start an alliance, maybe call it Against No-show United Scheme (the acronym is Anus) to exchange a database of no-show customers and prevent restaurant losses.” He was joking about the name, but not about the database, which he hopes to start under the Distance Business programme (D-Biz), for which the Hong Kong government is offering private enterprises a subsidy of HK$100,000 (US$12,900) to start digital businesses. I’ve decided to put those people who made reservations at Nikushou but didn’t show up during the pandemic hardship perpetually on our blacklist. Because they are inconsiderate a**holes and only deserve to eat garbage Anthony Ng’s post on Facebook Ng’s proposed business won’t limit itself to tracking no-shows and sharing their information with other food and beverage establishments, of course. His plans include building an online reservation system and delivery purchase platform where each customer is linked to their phone number. The platform could track – and share with others – a profile of each customer, with information about whether they are big spenders or cheap, their likes and dislikes, if they have a history of no-shows or showing up late. It’s something that the bigger restaurant groups can do, but it’s not readily available to independent operators, such as Ng. He’s hoping to launch it in June. In the meantime, Ng says they keep track of customers who do this. Their numbers are programmed into the Nikushou phone so that when the customer tries to book again, the staff taking down their details knows to tell them, “Sorry, but we’re fully booked that night”. It’s a line that will be repeated any time they try to get a reservation at the restaurant.