Advance booking. To book or not to book, that is the question…

Can an organiser reasonably expect advance booking for a show or for a meal or for any event that involves planning; any event that involves the outlay of money by the organiser ? I have been toying with this article for months wondering if it is valid. Finally, an event this week-end gave me the push I needed to put pen to paper.

Running a small restaurant for almost a decade taught us much about the value of bookings and planning and the unfavourable (even devastating) impact it can make to the bottom line when you open for a handful of guests.

I recently planned a pub quiz to have at the Perron only to have to cancel due to insufficient bookings to cover costs. That whole debacle was entirely my fault; by calling it a pub quiz it gave the impression of a quiz at a pub which is open 7 days a week come rain or come shine and where such a quiz is guaranteed a decent turn out. The Perron is not a pub and therefore booking is essential. Lesson learned.

The unfortunate cancellation of the Mathys Roets show at the Perron on Sunday caused a reaction.

When I tried to book early in the week to see Mathys Roets I was informed that because there were so few bookings the Perron was considering cancelling the show. I was not a happy bunny. When I checked late in the week I was told that the Perron had had to cancel the show due to the lack of bookings.

You can imagine my surprise when I discovered today (Monday) that a number of people just turned up on Sunday without booking. Those numbers could have saved the show had the Perron known they were coming.

Would it have been such an onerous task to make a booking ?

Making a booking helps the event organiser to work the balancing act with cut-off numbers, too many for a show, too few for a show.

There have to be cut off numbers; it is unreasonable to expect an artist to travel to a venue, discover that they are performing to 10 people and then have to drive home with barely enough to pay for the petrol. Of course if they are performing for a fixed fee then the venue can be stuck with a significant loss. It is a balancing act and we can help the venues around town to make informed decisions if we just take the trouble to make bookings in advance

By not booking we put venues in a very difficult position, to cancel or not to cancel.

Turning up at the box office on a whim is not fair. And those who do so have no right to feel miffed if the show is fully booked or has been cancelled due to lack of bookings.

I have read somewhere along the way that venues sometimes adopt a policy of charging a premium for turning up without booking. That’s a difficult decision for a venue to have to take, but it might encourage us to pick up the phone and book in advance.

Maybe the Perron will have to prescribe that bookings are essential.

It is not just the Theatre that feels the effects, there are probably other events or venues in town which experience or have experienced similar situations. I’ve heard it said before that it is the Darling way to just turn up at the door and expect to get in, surely not.

Is it reasonable for us shrug and say “it’s their problem, not mine”. I think not. Such an action could lead to a reaction, a reaction that we do not favour.

Maybe the Perron should state “Bookings essential”. That could be difficult for those who really cannot book in advance, those who do not have access to a phone or those who are on call for emergency services.

One way or another I guess you have worked out that I am sad to have missed Mathys Roets on Sunday. He is, by all accounts, a talented musician and a very courageous man.

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Peter Hall

Peter Hall – born in Belfast (N.Ireland). Supports the Blitzbokke and Sheffield Wednesday (who?). Part-time blogger or geek, part-time scribbler, reluctant part-time gout sufferer and occasional curmudgeon. Proud father of talented daughter (triathlete) and son (musician) who live in Australia.

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