20 June 2023

Shall I take a deposit for Christmas bookings this year?

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Shall I take a deposit for Christmas bookings this year?
Megan KingWritten ByMegan King

Megan is the Head of Client Services at Propeller. Leading the Account Management team, Megan handles effective and timely communications with clients to ensure great outcomes.

The heat of summer will make some think we are absurd to be speaking about Christmas when it is six months away. However, for hospitality, it is a highly anticipated season, with vendors seeing a huge surge in bookings over the festive period.

With such high demand, no-shows and last-minute cancellations can take a hospitality venue’s earning potential from record-profits to a less fulfilling result.

According to research from OpenTable, a third of UK diners admitted to missing a reservation without telling the restaurant beforehand…

In this article, we explore when deposits are necessary for the festive period, and how hospitality venues can utilise booking systems.


Deposits bring perks to both the venue and the guests. Some of the best advantages of taking deposits for table bookings include:

  • Increasing the likelihood of guests showing up, or ensuring that if they do cancel, it will give enough time to fill the space.
  • A smaller sum to pay for the customer on the night as the prepayment counts towards their final bill.
  • Ensuring that revenue is not lost through no-shows.
  • Ability to prepare for large bookings and nights that your venue is fully booked.
  • Having confidence in the number of covers will allow you to have the correct amount of staff for the seating.
  • Peace of mind for both you and the customer that the booking is secure.

Cancellations are an unavoidable part of working in hospitality. Though unfortunately, unexpected events can always occur and impact bookings made in advance. However, deposits ensure a safety-net for both parties.


The loss from a larger party not turning up is too high, which means deposits are encouraged. Particularly when considering one of hospitality’s busiest seasons, there is too much at stake if you allow guests to forgo a deposit.

To put this into perspective, OpenTable found that as few as six people not showing up to a forty-seat restaurant in a single night can make the difference between profit and loss.

According to Timely, businesses that accept deposits drastically cut their no-show rate by 55%. With online payments restaurants must make sure they are paid for their time and that their client is committed at the time of booking.

Predicting the exact number of no-shows on any given night isn’t possible. While some days will have none while others will have twice as many as normal. As a result, the mystery makes accurate planning difficult for restaurants.

for example, take staffing. Decisions about how many cooks and servers will work are based on the reservations on the books. If you’ve reserved a table for six and don’t show up, it’s a loss for the restaurant. But it’s also a loss for the server who was scheduled. This is because menu planning and ingredient orders are based on reservations as well, so a high no-show night can result in wasted food and lost money both.


When considering your options for deposits, most restaurants will choose one of the following options:


For events such as the all-important staff Christmas parties, restaurants often require a deposit to secure the reservation. These deposits are typically higher than those for regular dining reservations and may include a specific cancellation policy. Event-specific deposits help restaurants plan and allocate resources effectively, ensuring a smooth and successful event.


Cash deposits involve customers paying a certain amount of money upfront in person or online to secure their reservation. This method is straightforward and convenient for both parties, as the restaurant can collect the deposit immediately, and customers can feel confident that their booking is confirmed. Cash deposits are often refundable or can be used as credit toward the final bill.


Restaurants may choose to authorise a customer’s credit card for a specific amount at the time of booking. This process ensures that the necessary funds are available, but the actual charge is not processed until the customer completes their meal. Credit card pre-authorisations are commonly used for large parties or special events. If a customer fails to show up, the restaurant can charge a predetermined cancellation fee.


With the rise of online booking platforms, restaurants have the option to integrate online payment systems that require customers to pay a deposit to secure their reservations. These systems allow convenient and secure transactions, ensuring that the deposit is received in advance. Online payment systems often provide options for refunds or adjusting the deposit amount based on changes to the reservation.


In some cases, restaurants may accept vouchers or gift cards as deposits. Customers purchase these in advance and redeem them when making a reservation. This provides an additional revenue stream for the restaurant and offers customers the flexibility to use their deposit for future dining experiences.


Restaurants that offer membership or loyalty programs can allow members to use their accumulated points or benefits as deposits for bookings. This strategy promotes customer loyalty, while giving members the opportunity to enjoy exclusive privileges, such as priority reservations or waived deposit requirements.

Whichever option you select will be effective in deterring notorious no-showers from striking again and wasting available space in your restaurant.


Over at Propeller, we work with some great platforms to integrate booking systems for our hospitality clients. Here are some of our picks for restaurant booking systems that can take the stress out of deposits:


TheFork is the leading online restaurant booking and discovery platform in Europe, Latin America and Australia. They have also created a platform for visitors to easily find a restaurant to book whenever, wherever.


ResDiary is made for the hospitality industry. Inviting restaurant owners looking to move beyond traditional booking and management systems to provide their guests with a modern-feel system.


Zonal’s booking system, liveRes displays an online booking calendar to help restaurant owners maximise capacity, improve loyalty and boost profits.


Manage reservations, enquiries, tables, pre-ordering and payment, and simplify customer enquiries and communications.


Deposits for restaurant bookings play a vital role in ensuring reservations are honoured and managing customer expectations. Implementing deposit systems- particularly for Christmas bookings- can reduce the impact of no-shows and optimise their seating capacity.

From cash deposits to event-specific deposits, each approach offers its own benefits and considerations. Ultimately, the choice of deposit type depends on the restaurant’s preferences and the convenience and trust it provides to its valued customers.

Propeller is confident in implementing table booking platforms onto websites. Our focus is to deliver a richer booking experience, enabling superior packages and increasing booking conversions.

For table booking platform APIs, the team at Propeller are pioneers in integrating Fork, ResDiary, LiveRes and Collins over the past 10 years. If your company is preparing for the Christmas season ahead, speak with us to learn more about which system would be best suited to your company.