Monthly Archives: May 2013

Free Voucher System Launch

We are pleased to announce the launch of our free voucher system. This is one module of our restaurant management system that we have now released for free for everybody. It doesn’t matter if you are not a restaurant, you can still benefit from the system.

This is a genuinely free system - instant signup, no free trail or payment details needed, just sign up and jump straight in.

What can it do? Generate vouchers, track their use, advanced validity settings and much more. Its also bundled with a basic customer relationship management (CRM) system, when your customers use your vouchers you collect their details. This can be through you entering their details manually or the customer signing up themselves. You can see when customers used their vouchers and when. 

Go over to the Free voucher system page for a feature list and to sign up.

Why free?

Most importantly we want to create the best voucher system available. Easy to use with great features, but we can’t do that without a lot of feedback. The voucher system is an integral part of our restaurant management system – restaurants use this every day. This only gives us a limited opinion and feature set, that of the restaurant industry. We want to create a voucher system that every industry can benefit from.

We also hope that through the use of the free system you will be interested in other great services we provide, such as printing and Email + SMS marketing. You are under no obligation to buy anything, you can happily use the voucher system without any of these.

Plans for the future

We will release more posts about new features and how to use the system, but for now here is a few thing we will be doing.

Modules for your favourite CMS - Our free voucher system will integrate with your CMS so you can easily add a sign-up form that generates the user a voucher, voucher validation and many more. Which content management systems? We are working on plugins / modules for a few, but if you think the one you use should be first, please contact us.

Features, Features, Features - We will add more features, make the system even easier to use and keep innovating to help your business. Ideas on what we should do next? Send them along to us and we’ll get back to you.

Thanks for reading, now head over to the Free voucher system page!

Top Tips for Restaurants Reservations

Online, Telephone and Walk-in Restaurant Reservations

This blog post will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of various restaurant reservation methods, and will give some top tips for restaurants when considering how to take table bookings.

Should you take restaurant reservations at all?

Firstly, lets look at some pros and cons of taking restaurant bookings.

Disadvantages:

  • Absent customers / no shows lead to loss of revenue
  • Holding tables when customers are late for reservations also results in revenue loss
  • Changing party sizes involves reshuffling tables around to accommodate them

Advantages:

  • Special occasions often wish to book ahead
  • Planning bookings ahead often leads to better customer service as staff are prepared
  • Customers get a sense of good service if they are greeted and seated quickly, rather than enduring a long wait
  • Taking table reservations allows you to naturally build a valuable customer database
  • Accommodate large parties which often leads to more revenue directly; and even indirectly via word of mouth

Overall, I’d say taking table reservations is important, but there are various methods you should consider, which we’ll be discussing now.

Walk-in bookings

Although most reservations are done over the phone or online, during busy periods it may become necessary to maintain a waiting list.

The benefits of keeping a table waiting list include reducing table turn around times, which both increases efficiency and believe it or not, can encourage new customers to give your restaurant a go. This is unofficially referred to as the “busy restaurant theory”, which applies to many walks of life; customers assume that the restaurant must be good if it is busy, and others are willing to wait to be seated. It’s all about psychology I guess. Or is it simply logical?

The disadvantage of keeping a waiting list is the management and floor space required to keep customers entertained. Finally, if poorly managed, uncertain / inaccurate waiting times can often irritate customers and cause them to leave. This may lead to customers never returning…

Online Table Reservations

One of the main concerns with restaurant owners when it comes to the use of online restaurant reservations is whether or not it encourages no-shows.

Based on a recent study carried out at a popular Mediterranean restaurant in Sheffield, we found that in fact no-showing customers, are not a major concern.

Often restaurants request deposits or credit card details to reserve, however, this can discourage even those who are genuinely looking to reserve online, or by telephone. This problem is particularly the case for smaller, less well known and independent restaurants.

How can restaurants discourage / prevent no-shows?

One method which has been adopted by many restaurants now days is to replace credit card details upon reservation with other customer information such as:

  • email
  • telephone number
  • postcode

This is said to discourage customers from not showing up for table reservations, or at least it encourages them to give the restaurant notice of the cancellation in advance.

Online table reservations are the perfect way to build a customer database, excusing you from the laborious tasks involved in maintaining a list of customers manually. This of it like this:

The customer is providing their data entry services AND bringing you custom to your restaurant.

It also reduces the chances of spelling mistakes, which are too common when taking telephone bookings.

One thing to consider when using an online reservation tool is that you need to ensure that you have tables available to accommodate the party at the time they have reserved. Teapot Table offer a solution to this problem with their restaurant management system and online table booking module.

Online table booking enquiries are completely different to online reservations. Flat form enquiries should be discouraged as they require staff time, and require lots of work for a relatively low conversion rate.

Instead, the customer should be able to see if a table is available on a given date for a given party size at a given time on your online booking module. Teapot Table’s booking module provides just that.

Telephone reservations

Telephone bookings are necessary, but can often result in miscommunication in terms of spelling customer names, telephone numbers, dates and times.

It is recommended that the customer is reminded about their booking via a confirmation email at the time of the booking, followed by a reminder a day or two before the sitting. This allows the customer to double check the details are correct, or contact the restaurant if necessary to amend them.

Teapot Table’s dashboard provides restaurant employee with a simple data entry system which automatically populates customer specific fields if it detects that the customer already exists in the database. The advantages of this are:

  • Speeds up the telephone reservation process
  • Clearly shows availability to staff so they can advise over the phone
  • Checks spelling
  • Validates emails, telephone numbers etc
  • Sends the customer an automatic confirmation email.

One of the most important things to remember when it comes to table reservations, is that it is all about customer service and satisfaction. Building a customer database is just one of the perks…

Starting out with Go lang

This is the first technical post we have written on the Teapot Table blog. We want to share what we’ve learnt, to help others and get valuable feedback. This post will discuss starting out with go lang.

After version 1.1 of Go was released, we at Teapot Table thought it may be a good time to jump in and see what all the fuss is about.

The speed of Go was one of the main reasons to choosing it. It was Python or Go and although Python is a much more mature language, we decided to go for something new.

First Impressions

Go is strict. Very strict. There are good and bad points about this, the good may out way the bad – but it can still be very annoying.
All those notices you ignore with other languages will stop Go from running your code, which is good, it forces you to code better. The annoying bit is that it will refuse to run even smaller ‘problems’ like unused variables and imports. This is good for production code, but when developing and testing really gets to you, continually having to comment things in and out.
Getting external libraries is easy, a nice go get command and the URL of it downloads it for you.

Go lang differences

When I first started the subtle syntax and convention differences caught me out.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are a few that I found early on:

  • Use ” double quotes not ‘ single quotes in a string. Go doesn’t like single quotes
  • Use the plus + operator to append strings together not full stops.
  • No semicolons
  • Doesn’t care about tabbing
  • No brackets around if statements
  • Must use curly brackets – on if statements, for etc
  • Every variable must be used
  • functions can return multiple variables
  • its nil not null

How to install Go 1.1 on CentOS

First make sure you have GIT and Mercurial installed
yum install git
yum install mercurial

These are used to get external libraries with the go get command.
wget https://go.googlecode.com/files/go1.1.linux-amd64.tar.gz
tar -C /usr/local -xzf go1.1.linux-amd64.tar.gz

That’s go installed, lets add the path.
vi /etc/profile

Press i to edit, then go to the bottom of the file and add these two lines:
export PATH=$PATH:/usr/local/go/bin
export GOPATH=$HOME/go

Press escape, then type :wq – this’ll save the file and quit

Now Go should be available with the go command. Use go get to install libraries from Github and Google code. Use go run filename.go to run your code!

Common restaurant mistakes when designing table layouts and table configurations

Restaurant’s often find themselves changing their table layout to improve services by trial and error. This will inevitably result in mistakes. Here we discuss some common restaurant mistakes.

This blog post will discuss the benefits and drawbacks with regards to flexible and not so flexible table layouts and configurations.

Firstly, here are a few common mistakes that restaurants make (sound familiar?):

  • Change the configuration and table layout, along with table numbers, but forget about reassigning confirmed bookings to the new table numbers.
  • Change the table configuration in such a way that it is difficult to maneuver around customers during the service.
  • Changing restaurant table numbers can confuse service staff members such as waiters and waitresses if they are used to a particular layout. This can slow a service down dramatically.
  •  A poorly designed restaurant table layout can mean that seat allocation is inefficient, meaning that you will not make the most out of your potential capacity.
  •  Poorly designed table layouts require lots of reconfiguration throughout the service causing disruption to customers.
  • Restaurants often make bad choices with regards to furniture. Picking the right table shapes, sizes and weights are crucial.  A bad choice of table shape means that catering for varying party sizes throughout the service is challenging. This is due to the limited ability to combine tables to create custom sizes.

All of the above mistakes can lead to customer disruption, which ultimately leads to the loss of customers and loss of revenue.

Restaurants need to strike a happy medium between layouts which either:

  1. Require lots of reconfiguration, causing disruption to customers during service.
  2. Cater for a large range of party sizes however are restricted to prevent flexible reconfiguration.

By designing a restaurant floor plan which is both easy to reconfigure around customers, and also well thought out enough to cater for most without reconfiguration, you are half way there.

However, we still have one obstacle to overcome; the time it takes to decide which tables to allocate.

Teapot Table now provide an advanced table allocation module which is fully configurable. You simply submit all of your physical tables, and then add the tables which are used in combination with others to cater for larger parties. We call these “virtual tables”.

With the new Virtual Table module, online, telephone and walk-in parties are allocated tables automatically, taking into account confirmed bookings at that time.

This allows staff to free up their time, and concentrate more on customer service and satisfaction. It also prevents double bookings, and shows staff, if necessary, which tables require combining in order to seat a party, even before they arrive.

Teapot Inspired Wallpapers

We’ve put together a few 1920 x 1080px (1080p) sized desktop backgrounds and wallpapers. Which are… teapot based!

mysterious-teapot Flowerly-teapot teapot-friends blue-teapot

They are also on our Pinterest page which you can see here: http://pinterest.com/teapottable/teapot-table/. – We’ll keep updating our board with teapot based images from us and will be pinning other peoples interesting shots too.

We’re also on instagram and will be uploading random snaps of teapots we see on our travels – Available at: http://instagram.com/teapottable/

How our online reservation module works

Online reservation module

We recently launched our online reservation module, which allows restaurants to take online table bookings from any device. You can read about our online reservation management launch to find out a bit about us.

In this short post, we’ll be running through a few features of the online booking module, how it works and what makes it unique.

No drop downs

To make the interface as easy to use with every device, we designed the interface to avoid using any drop down menus. You will find many articles on the web regarding the pros and cons of drop downs as an input; they work well on mobile devices, but are fiddly to use and hide content.

We believe users shouldn’t have to go looking in drop down menus to see what options they have. All content should be obvious and easy to find.

Here at Teapot Table, we use sliders and buttons instead, ensuring that all content is visible to the user. Sliders work well with touch screen sliding, and can be dragged with a mouse.

slider

Slider to select the number of people

To make it even easier we also added the plus and minus buttons so that users can increment the number of people (party size) by clicking instead. The presence of the graphical stick men reinforces the selection, while adding a bit of personality to the form.

Reinforce Selection

Reminding and confirming to the user about what they have already entered reassures the user that they have not made any mistakes. Change buttons also allow a user to easily modify the number of people, date and time.

At every stage of the booking process we keep the user updated on how many guests they have selected, the date and time by displaying this information as the user inputs further information.

When the booking is confirmed, the details are once again presented to the user along with their booking reference code. If the user has requested that the booking system should remember them, the data is persistent across browser refreshes and sessions. So if the user comes back to double check their booking later that day, the information will be open and waiting for them on the booking page.

Date selection

Selecting a date and time

Selecting a date and time

One key improvement we wished to implement, which most other booking systems make hard work of, changing the date.

Imagine that once you have selected your date, you find that the time you want is unavailable. Normally you would have to go back to the previous screen, change the date, then try again. This process could repeat until you get fed up and find somewhere else.

We have improved this process by allowing you to select the date on the left and then instantly see which times are available on the right, without having to “go back”.

We’ve worked hard to make this process as fast and as easy to use as possible, even on a mobile data connection, the available times will load quickly.

If this is something you think your restaurant, or a restaurant you provide a website for would be interested in, please do contact us

There’s plenty more where that came from, we’ll be posting about other features shortly.

Online Restaurant Management Launch

Online Restaurant Management

Teapot Table are a young, innovative and agile company who focus on applying the latest technologies to make life easier for both restaurants and customers.

Our agile approach to development involves constant feedback from live restaurants.

The close relationships we maintain with our restaurants enable us to produce products that solve problems, speed up processes and are extremely easy to use.

Teapot Table concentrate on customers, and we have a different outlook to most; getting customers through the door is one thing, but maintaining a good relationship with your customers so that they return, is another.

The Teapot Table dashboard allows you to build your own customer database, and one of our unique selling points is this:

  • You (the restaurant) will be the only people to have access to the customers in your database.

The dashboard focuses on management:

  • Reservation Management (telephone, walk-in and internet)
  • Customer Database Management
  • Website Management
  • Promotion/Voucher code Management
  • Customer Relationship Management

It also allows you to see vast amounts of data regarding your customers, how they booked, how much they spent, along with useful historical graphs such as the total number of bookings per day.

Today marks the official release of our latest product; an online customer-facing reservation module which plugs directly into the dashboard, and compliments the existing walk-in and telephone reservation management system. This equips you with a customer facing reservation system which can be embedded into your own website and other websites as online advertisements.
To show you how easy it is to embed in your own website, here is the online table booking system in this WordPress post!

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Why not try it out… Use voucher code: “demo”

To celebrate and promote our latest product, our Online Restaurant Management system, for a limited time only, we are offering a free mobile, tablet & PC compatible website (optional) to any restaurants which sign up.

The customer facing reservation module allows you to be in direct contact with your online market, which is simply a must for any business today.

In order to develop our latest product, we have worked closely with several restaurant owners, along with their staff and customers.

Here is a selection of new features which are included:

  • Ability to set open/close times on specific days
  • Specify sitting times for special events
  • Take large bookings easily by allowing our advanced virtual table system to utilise pre-defined table combinations to cater for larger parties
  • Take special offer/promotional  bookings (online, magazines, etc.) within predefined valid date & time ranges by allowing the customer to enter their voucher codes online
  • Generate custom voucher/promotional codes for adverts, or even just for individual customers.

We are currently developing a revolutionary POS system. Stay tuned for more information.

For more information please contact us.