Long gone are the days of using a written diary for managing your bookings, with the tech takeover came digital reservation systems and the ability to integrate your business with various online platforms to maximise your booking capabilities. This is an important tool and one that few independent businesses are using to its full potential.
In order to get the most out of a reservation system hotels and restaurants need to be managing them effectively; achieving maximum yield, enabling table turns and collecting customer data for profiling and future marketing are pretty much the basics.
Hotels, particularly chain hotels, are excellent at managing reservations – they have entire front office teams dedicated to monitoring and reviewing occupancy, overbooking, and rates whilst constantly communicating with OTAs to market and fill their properties. Restaurants on the other hand tend to over look this area of the business, often not managing booking strategy correctly, thinking they can save on payroll and the reservation platform will do all the work for them.
The vast majority of the work is in the set up, choosing the right platform and calibrating it to fit around your style of business, it’s then vital to manage bookings session-by-session in advance to get the best results. One thing I find with restaurants is they tend to be over protective with their booking system, severely limiting their availability so they don’t “get slammed in the middle of service”. With so much competition in the restaurant industry today it’s important not to build this digital wall stopping customer bookings before you’ve even started. Best practice would be to maximise available occupancy, incorporate as many table turns as possible and increase the cap on group bookings, then proactively monitor inbound reservations and make guest contact or block out accordingly.
There are so many different brands of reservation system restaurants can use, and they all typically do the same thing in terms of managing the restaurant floor – it’s the additional support and services that should be considered when choosing which system is best for your business.
If you don’t require any extras and just need the restaurant floor managing, basic platforms are less expensive and will do the trick – try a few demos and get an easy to use interface you’re happy with. However if you want to up your game, and I recommend everybody should, choosing platforms with marketing and data capture facilities is the way forward. Business owners are usually put off using the marketing capabilities of these platforms to their full potential due to cover charges and commissions, if that’s you, try and put this to the back of your mind. It’s exactly the same as hotels filling their rooms using OTAs, these platforms have huge databases of diners and heavy traffic websites enabling them to market your business to a much larger target audience, giving you more brand awareness and ultimately increased sales.
Making the most out of your reservation platform’s digital marketing power and your profile on their website is key, but often overlooked, basics like listing your products and promotions will not only will increase awareness of your offering, it will boost your ranking on their website too, increasing the chance of users (particular mobile users in the local area) choosing to dine with you. Integration with third party platforms like Facebook, Tripadvisor or local influencer dining platforms should be taken advantage of to increase your brand’s footprint and the convenience of customer bookings.
Capturing data from your diners is a simple yet effective way of taking your reservation management to the next level – you need your team to be able to collect notes and information about your guests not just their contact details. Remembering favourite dishes, tables and dietary requirements are all ways to go that extra mile and impress your guests on their next visit… plus collecting their contact details will allow you to connect with your customer base when advertising new menus, products and events in future.
One last thing… no one’s stopping you having more than one reservation system, different platforms have various advantages, so get two and maximize your reservation capabilities via tech.