RESTAURANTS were thrilled to reopen their doors to customers earlier this month but are experiencing high numbers of cancellations or no-shows to the frustration of restaurant owners.

Restaurants began to welcome guests on July 4, after more than three months of being closed. To adhere to social distancing guidelines, most restaurants have had to significantly reduce the number of tables and seats to keep customers over a metre apart. Fewer tables, and therefore fewer covers, has meant that despite being able to reopen, restaurants are not able to reach anywhere near the capacity they were able to before the pandemic struck. On top of that, increased last minute cancellations and guests not turning up is leaving restaurants with emptier sites than ever before.

Weymouth's Al Molo has taken 11 tables out of the restaurant to make enough space for guests to socially distance which equates to roughly 50 covers. Co-owner, Tim Newton, said: "We have had a real problem with no-shows which is so frustrating. We are turning people away who want to come and eat and then people with reservations don't turn up. Last Saturday we have five no shows and with fewer tables in the restaurant anyway it makes it so obvious that we are not full.

"It has been so frustrating but that is just the way it is. We don't take deposits as we don't want to put people off but the no shows have been incredibly annoying."

Bob Rezaei, owner of Crustacean in Weymouth, is experiencing a similar number of cancellations and no-shows to previous years but the limitations on table numbers is causing a problem. He said: "We have had quite a few customers not turn up after making a reservation via email. This is an ongoing problem but in previous years we have been lucky because we used to overbook as we knew some people wouldn't turn up. We can't risk that this year because we don't want people hanging around and waiting.

"We have the issue of no-shows every night. It is frustrating but it is one of those things. Luckily we are very busy so if one or two tables do not turn up then we can manage."

Experiencing a more enjoyable reopening, The Dorset Burger Company has not had nearly as many cancellations or no shows as other Weymouth restaurants. Owner, Emma Cogan, said: "It has been fantastic since we reopened. We have been fully booked most evenings which has been fortunate. We have had a few no-shows but nothing to the extent that other restaurants are reporting and when we do notice there is a no-show we are often able to fill it quite quickly as we have got people waiting to get a table."