The great thing about 10 no-shows at a 28-seat restaurant is you’ve got space for walk-ins from the rain on this quiet street. Oh.
— James Ramsden (@JamesRamsden_) August 29, 2015
What is wrong with people?? When I need to cancel a reservation, I cancel a reservation. I can think of two times in my (relatively long) life where I haven’t done this:
- When I had food poisoning and skipped a massage at Kobkhun Thai on the Essex Road because well, you don’t even want to know. It was a dark four days in my life and I never want to ever have food poisoning ever, ever again.
- When I skipped a business appointment because I was in recovery from a very, very bad, bad bad email mistake that I will tell you about one day over cocktails.
I think James’ tweet says it all. Last minute cancellations and/or no-shows are a challenge for the restaurant industry, particularly if you don’t take credit cards or tickets before a booking. The rent is too damn high, my friends, to allow for no shows. (Sorry, I’ve always loved the Rent is Too Damn High guy. I think he’s right!)
There is a partial solution for the industry. My friend Ollie told me about Uncover, the last minute dinner reservations app, during my 50 coffees with 50 people experiment. (The experiment is temporarily on hiatus in August but more to come soon, I promise). Through my own research, here’s what I understand about how Uncover works:
- Uncover curates a highly selective list of cool places.
- Restaurants on the list let Uncover know when they have last minute cancellations or no-shows.
- You make your same-day or next-day reservation through the app.
Uncover invited me to try the app in return for a £50 credit at the restaurant of my choosing. A Girl Has to Eat and I already had plans to meet up and wanted an early dinner, so I checked out what was available centrally. Antidote in Soho had a table for two available at 6:30 so I pounced on that and we I ate and drank our way through our £50 of the menu. (This is a bit of a lie because A Girl Has to Eat held herself to one glass or sparkling rose. I had that and another glass of wine, which was an eye-watering £13 for a 175 ml glass.)
The Uncover app is very easy to use and the restaurants available are definitely some of the nicer, hipper and more happening places. I am just doing a quick flip through right now as I write this and there are tables available at The Opera Tavern, Fera at Claridges, Locanda Locatelli, Coya, and one of my personal favorites, Rex & Mariano.
If I had any criticism, it’s that the app doesn’t let you have two bookings on the same night. I had this crazy idea to do a progressive — starters at Antidote and mains at Duck & Rice — and Uncover just wasn’t handling it. I guess that makes sense to me and my idea was more of an “advanced” one, but apps like Uncover make progressives so very very possible so why not let people do it? (Maybe require that there be two hours between bookings or something like that.) Progressive dinners, my friends, are the future.Why not let me spend more at more restaurants in the same night??
The PR for Uncover encouraged us to pay with the app — there’s a new payment facility — but from what I can tell, it’s fairly limited right now so we didn’t have a chance to try it out.
All in all, if Uncover can help the restaurant industry recover bookings and revenue lost through no-shows and last minute cancellations, it’s a very good thing. You should download the app and check it out. At the very least, it’s a very well curated list of establishments so it will help you separate the wheat from the chaff when you’re looking for a great night out. Uncover is currently offering £10 off your bill if you book a restaurant with the app and send them a photo of your receipt. Give it a shot.
Disclosure: Per the above, I received a £50 credit towards my meal at Antidote in return for writing about the app. I love writing about technology and hope to do some more app reviews in the future. Any suggestions would be very welcome.