The guest experience starts way before guests take their first bite of your delicious food.
Are they able to easily discover your restaurant? Does the menu have options for vegetarians or vegans?
Are they able to get a table?
Just like party RSVPs equip hosts with the information they need to accomodate guests, restaurant reservations enable front-of-house, back-of-house, and management teams to work together to create that great guest experience for everyone who walks through your doors. When restaurants know in advance who they’ll be serving, how large the party will be, and what occasion is being celebrated, they can customize the service, food recommendations, and overall guest experience.
While some restaurants forego reservations in favor of a first-come-first served policy, restaurants that take reservations reap the business benefits of a more predictable day. Restaurants that opt for a modern reservation system benefit even further from features like analytics, restaurant seating optimization, even more information on guests!.
Technology has revolutionized reservation management. If your restaurant is using an outdated reservation system, or just relying on the phone and a date book, it’s time for an upgrade. Reservation systems optimize restaurant operations, enabling restaurateurs to provide guests with stellar experiences that will turn first-time visitors into regulars.
In this guide to restaurant reservations, you’ll learn:
- A brief history of restaurant reservations
- How reservations benefit each role in a restaurant
- Why your restaurant should have a reservation system
- The business benefits of restaurant reservations
Here’s the scoop on restaurant reservations and reservation management technology.
A Brief History of Restaurant Reservations
Today, restaurant reservations can be made over the phone, online, or even via an SMS (text) message. A reservation guarantees diners a table at the restaurant of their choice when they arrive. For the most part, diners don’t have to put down a deposit to reserve a table and the check is settled after the meal has ended.
While these rules of restaurant reservations are the norm today, things were quite different in the past. In the 19th century, reservations were used to book private dining rooms in restaurants, according to Rebecca Spang, author of the Invention of the Restaurant, in an interview with the Atlantic. Restaurants had both communal dining rooms with several tables and small rooms for private dining. When a private dining room was reserved, the meal was ordered and paid for in advance so that it could be served when guests arrived.
Contrary to popular belief, the rise of telephones didn’t affect the popularity of restaurant reservations or dining out. Instead, after World War I, as more of the American population began working, dining out became a necessity rather than a luxury, Spang explains.
Today, half of consumers eat out between two and four times each week – restaurants are just a part of daily life. Reservation technology has made it even easier for consumers to make dining out part of their routines.
How Reservations Benefit Each Role in a Restaurant
If your restaurant has no reservation policy in effect, you may change your mind after seeing how reservations benefit every role in the restaurant – both staff and customers.
Managers need to know what’s going on at their restaurant so they can coordinate staffing, communication, and inventory. When managers know how many guests to expect through reservations. Plus, an influx of reservations clue managers in on giving servers extra training on busy nights.
The host’s job is to seat hungry people and to set diners’ expectations for how long they’ll have to wait for their meal. When a restaurant takes reservations, hosts can better anticipate when tables will turn over in order to give more accurate wait times.
Servers are the face of your customer experience. When customers make a reservation, they can share details about the meal – is it a celebration? – or let staff know if anyone in the party has a food allergy.
When servers are equipped with this information, they can act on it without being asked by customers. Servers can bring out dessert for a birthday celebration or point out the menu’s dairy-free options. When the front-of-house team can anticipate customers’ needs, they can go above and beyond customer expectations from the beginning, making them more likely to convert occasional restaurant goers into lifelong regulars.
Guests benefit most from reservations. First, when customers make a reservation, they know that their table is guaranteed, instead of arriving only to wait an hour for a table. They can also make their reservation over the phone, in person, or online!
Second, guests who make reservations don’t have to worry about losing their table because they can communicate with the host if they’re running late.
Third, customers benefit from being able to request special accommodations when they make a reservation in order to get the experience that they expect.
When restaurants take reservations, it’s a win-win on both sides of the table.
Why You Need a Reservation System
If your restaurant accepts reservations, what system do you have in place to take and organize them? Does it only take reservations over the phone? Does your team record the reservations manually in a date book or use a more tech-savvy approach?
The latest restaurant reservation systems can clear up clutter and improve accuracy, make business more predictable, maximize revenue, and help create personalized guest experiences.
Here’s why you should consider upgrading your current process to a digital reservation system.
1. Less Clutter
Modern reservation systems can be managed through something as small as an iPad. Let your host ditch paper notebooks and reduce clutter on the host stand!
2. Increased Accuracy
A reservation system reduces errors that can be made taking reservation information over the phone. When customers book online, there’s less risk that a reservation will be booked for a party of seven instead of eleven.
3. More Predictable Wait Times
As a customer, there’s nothing worse than waiting 30 minutes for a table just to find out that you’ll actually have to wait an hour. A reservation system helps businesses optimize restaurant seating layouts, so that they can accommodate more customers and give guests more accurate wait times. If the wait becomes longer than anticipated, the host can adjust expectations and offer a complimentary snack or beverage. You’ll also predict these times better, as your integrated system uses information from your layout. By considering table seating times and courses they’re on, you give guests a more accurate estimate.
4. Automated Reservation Reminders
A modern reservation system can send guests automated reservation reminders and waitlist updates via text and email. This feature frees the host up to serve customers who are already present, instead of calling incoming guests to ask about their whereabouts.
With two-way notifications, guests can let you know if they’re running late or need to cancel through the convenience of an SMS. This also helps reduce no-shows by minimizing the chance your guest forgot their reservation.
5. Customer Profiles
Hospitality is all about the guest experience. Reservation technology can save customer information like contact details, how often they’ve visited, dietary restrictions, and special dates and anniversaries – and their spend! This customer information can be integrated into marketing campaigns to more accurately target guests through personalized promotions.
When you know you have a regular customer coming in for a big celebration, you can make the extra effort to cater the experience to them – maybe assign them to top performing staff or throw in a free dessert for a celebration.
How Reservation Systems Help Your Bottom Line
So how do the above benefits affect the bottom line at your restaurant?
When you use a reservation system that integrates with your point of sale (POS) system, it’s easy to see how reservations affect revenue.
Reservations Are Maximized
Reservation technology can increase your restaurant’s revenue by maximizing the number of reservations you can manage on any given day. When your restaurant’s POS and reservation system are integrated, they can work seamlessly in sync.
For example, when a server closes up a table on your restaurant’s POS and changes its status to available, your reservation system will automatically make that table available to guests to book online. This feature saves the host from having to check the POS to see which tables are available and update the reservation system.
Analytics Make Business More Predictable
Another benefit of having a POS and reservation system that communicate with each other is their ability to produce powerful business insights about the past, present, and future.
A POS and reservation system integration can show you how reservations affected sales in the past. This helps your team set realistic business goals by basing them on historical data. For example, if your restaurant had 30 reservations for Father’s Day last year, plan around a similar number of reservations this year and staff up accordingly. If you notice your numbers are low, you can refocus your marketing efforts to boost reservations.
An integrated system can show you real-time shift revenue and average guest spend, so you can encourage servers to upsell as needed in order to meet daily sales goals.
An integrated reservation system also helps track guest status to turn more tables and accurately quote wait times. When you can turn more tables, your restaurant will generate more revenue and your employees could receive more tips.
Analytics generated by an integrated system make for better forecasting. When your team knows how many guests to expect, they can maximize revenue by optimizing restaurant seating, scheduling more staff, and brushing up on training to ensure that they provide the best customer experience possible.
You Receive More Reviews
Sixty-eight percent of restaurant goers have tried a new restaurant because of a positive review. While guests may have had a great experience at your restaurant, they probably won’t write about it unless asked. A good reservation system can automatically prompt guests to write a review of their experience, which will help you gain more reviews, and therefore more customers.
Everybody in your restaurant benefits from reservations. Hosts can seat guests immediately at their preferred tables. Servers can greet guests by name and suggest specials based on preferences thanks to the information provided in the reservation. A reservation system helps the front-of-house team build long lasting relationships with customers.
Accepting reservations is a no brainer for full service restaurants. Implementing a reservation system that integrates with your restaurant’s POS gives your business a competitive edge, helping you improve the customer experience AND grow the bottom line.
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