The old world method of recording phone reservations in a paper journal might still work for traditional fine dining establishments where the Maitre D’ knows all his regular customers by name. But for the rest of us, a restaurant reservation system is essential.
For outlets operating on lower margins that depend for their survival on maximum occupancy and rapid table turns, a more sophisticated approach is essential.
Fortunately, today’s state of the art restaurant reservation systems make it simple to implement some key functionalities. And these can deliver immediate benefits:
No-show customers have always been an annoying and costly fact of life for restaurants accepting reservations. But the problem is even more serious now that so many businesses are operating on limited capacity because of COVID-19.
Modern reservation systems can help prevent no-shows by automatically sending customers SMS and email reminders and waiting list updates. A good reservations software will also allow customers easily to communicate with the restaurant if they’re going to arrive late or wish to cancel for any reason.
And if no-shows remain a serious problem, you can in the last resort use your system to take a deposit or retain a customer’s credit card details for extra security.
In a traditionally highly competitive and low-margin business, it’s essential to make the best possible use of your available serving space and time.
Today’s restaurant reservation software can help you achieve this by running in sync with the table management features of your restaurant POS system.
When customers call or try to book online, the system will know at once which tables will be available, and when, with no need for staff or management to check POS floor plans or confirm reservations.
Customers can therefore be notified immediately of very accurate wait times. This allows them not to proceed with their booking if they wish, potentially releasing a table for someone else.
The alternative is long lines, crowded reception areas and unhappy customers turning away, unlikely ever to return.
But there’s much more to reservations than efficient table management.
Today’s systems also provide a great channel for engaging new and returning customers. Basic contact details are of course retained, but a good software will also record customers’ favorite menu options, spending habits and personal data such as anniversaries.
All this information represents a terrific opportunity for precisely targeted marketing, whether through specific promotions or a loyalty program.
On a more basic level, an efficient online reservations system largely eliminates the kind of human error that can all too easily creep in over the phone, and which can cause a probably permanent loss of confidence in your business.
Industry studies have shown, not surprisingly, that positive reviews and social media posts are hugely important in encouraging restaurant-goers to try a new venue.
The problem is that many don’t think to leave a review unless asked. And how tedious and unwelcome would it be to have your wait staff prompting them to do so at checkout – on top of everything else that they have to think about.
Fortunately, modern reservations systems can be set up to automatically prompt customers to post reviews or to like your business on social media.
Offering inducements is, of course, unethical but it’s amazing how powerful a simple please and thank you can be; and automating this process can yield remarkable results.
Finally, no one yet knows for how long the capacity restrictions imposed in many states and cities because of COVID-19 may persist.
And it’s vital for your survival as a business that you comply with all relevant regulations – whether that means operating at 25%, 75% or something in between.
You might try and do this simply by counting heads at the door, but far the better solution is to use your reservations system to ensure that your capacity limits will never be exceeded at any given time.
Just as importantly from the point of view of profitability, a solid restaurant reservation system can also help ensure that you have as few unoccupied tables as possible.