Restaurant owners say no-shows are putting jobs at risk in an industry “on the verge of collapse” because of coronavirus.
TV chef Paul Ainsworth said he had 27 “shocking” no-shows in Rock, Cornwall, on Tuesday, the same number reported by Tom Kerridge in London on Saturday.
Some restaurants are now considering asking for non-refundable deposits.
In Cornwall, a group set up to raise awareness of the issue has “gone bonkers” within 24 hours.
Natalie Moore said about 40 restaurants and pubs had been in touch since she formed the North Cornwall No Show group.
“Restaurants have a limited capacity because of social distancing, meaning every seat is even more valuable at the moment,” said Ms Moore, from the Pickwick Inn near Padstow.
“Everyone is on their knees.”
Michelin-starred chef Mr Kerridge also posted about the issue on the weekend and said no-shows put jobs at risk in an industry that was already “on the verge of collapse”.
One possible deterrent would be to ask for a non-refundable deposit, but restaurants said this would be costly to administer with the time it takes to accept payments over the phone.
Some take credit card details, although Mr Ainsworth said some customers cancel their card before the charge can be taken.
Ryan Tomkins owns the Stepping Stone in Wadebridge, where eight people no-showed on Wednesday in a restaurant with a current capacity of 24 due to social distancing.
He said they had 60 people who wanted to dine with them but the no-shows were too late to replace, “making it a bitter pill to swallow as we try and claw back what we can after being closed for three months”.
“It seems people might be booking more than one place and then choosing which one to go to at the last minute,” he said.
“It is devastating when people don’t show. It is really getting to everyone at the moment.”