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.
- 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
- 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.
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:
- telephone number
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 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…