Brits are dodging cancellation and no-show fines by using fake credit card details, in another blow to bars and restaurants as Omicron cases surge.
In a bid to stem lost business amid the pandemic, restaurants are having to start charging cancellation fees to make sure customers actually show up.
But sly punters have been giving false card numbers so they don't have to pay the fine when they cancel their tables or don't even turn up, writes the Metro.
As the Covid pandemic continues to devastate the hospitality sector, restaurant owners say these dodgy details are making it worse for them.
Award-winning House of Feasts restaurant, Peterborough, says they've had 300 cancellations after Boris Johnson's TV speech about the surge in Omicron cases last week.
Damian Wawrzyniak, the owner of the diner, said: "We are fortunate in that we tend to get less no-shows than others, as we take credit card details, meaning that is a charge for people who cancel within less than 24 hours.
"However, we only take £5 per person, so it doesn’t really come close to making up for the loss of income.
"And, upsettingly, we’ve experienced a rise in people giving us false card numbers, so when they don’t show up, we can’t even take the £5 cancellation fee."
He added: "If things continue like this, there is no two ways about it: we will fold."
He's not the only chef to see the worse side of Brits.
Former Masterchef winner Kenny Tutt said restaurants losing on in this way is "disgusting".
He's been warned against the 'big spike' in reports but luckily he hasn't seen the practice so far in his restaurant, Pitch, based in Worthing, Sussex.
He said: "We’re not an industry that’s strong enough to take advantage of.
"They’ve got to pick on someone else."
Mr Tutt added it's a 'shame' restaurants are having to charge people before they arrive, as it takes the joy out of the experience.
But owners say they're facing little choice of another option due to the sheer number of cancellations.
Especially as the food is brought in and staff are paid to work but fewer people show up, expenses remain the same.
A spokesperson for the trade body UKHospitality said: "It is obviously very wrong for anyone to do this at any time but even more so now when operators are really struggling."
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