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Online Restaurant Reservations: What to Include On Your Website


Katie McCann

Everybody wants to avoid those slow nights. The solution? Online restaurant reservations.

Imagine throwing a party where no guests RSVP. Without a headcount, it’s impossible to prepare the right amount of food. Either you don’t have enough food and end up with hangry guests, or make too much and are stuck eating leftovers for days. Neither scenario is ideal. 

Running a restaurant is like throwing a party. Reservations, like RSVPs, help you prepare for your guests. When you know how many people to expect at your restaurant on any given day, you’re able to spend more accurately on inventory and staffing – leaving your customers and your bank account happy. 

In this guide to online restaurant reservations, you’ll learn:

  • Why optimizing your online reservations is important for business 
  • The user experience of making a reservation
  • 11 ways to optimize and increase online restaurant reservations 
Reservation sign on dining table made through online reservations

Why Optimizing Online Restaurant Reservations Is Important for Business 

Before the digital era, calling a restaurant was the primary way to make a reservation. Today, a restaurant’s online presence – from its website to its social media accounts – creates multiple opportunities for diners to make reservations.

Why is it important to optimize your restaurant’s online reservations? 

  1. Ease of Use: The easier it is for people to find a reservation link on your website, the more reservations your restaurant will get. And more reservations = more customers.
  2. Power of Suggestion: The more times a customer sees an opportunity to make a reservation on your website, the more inclined they’ll be to make one. In sales, it takes three to five attempts to close a deal. Reservations are directly tied to sales, so get reservation links in front of customers as much as possible to increase your revenue. 
  3. Staffing and Inventory Needs: Remember the party planning anecdote from a few paragraphs ago? When you have reservations, you can predict how much staff and inventory you’ll need. When you have the right amount of staff, you can provide customers with a better experience without spending money on labor you don’t need. When you have the right amount of inventory, you can avoid overspending on food or running to the grocery store to buy supplemental ingredients.
  4. Waitlist Management: Online reservations help you manage your waitlist more easily. When you know how many parties to expect on any given night, you’re able to quote wait times more accurately for walk in customers
  5. More Guest Data: Online reservations let you collect information about guests that you can use to give them a memorable dining experience. When you use a reservation system that enables you to create guest profiles, you can get information like table preferences, dietary restrictions, and special dates for each guest. What guest wouldn’t feel special when you remember a birthday or favorite table?

Online reservations help you get more reservations, collect more details about customers, manage your waitlist easily, and plan your inventory and staffing needs accurately.

The Complete Guide to Restaurant Reservations

Learn how a restaurant reservations system can help your business thrive.

Download Guide >

The User Experience of Making an Online Restaurant Reservation

So what does making an online restaurant reservation look like from the perspective of a customer?

We’re illustrating the process by walking you through Toronto restaurant Wynona’s website. Take inspiration from them to create your own intuitive, easy-to-use online reservation experience for your guests.

Wynona's website front page, featuring a floral design, and example of strong restaurant web design

1. Wynona has the “reservations” box highlighted in the main menu, making it easy to spot among the red and pink. The box is in a color that contrasts the other elements on the page. This visual cue indicates that this option is more important than other options on the page. 

Wynona's online restaurant reservations page, white screen with red trim containing contact info

2. Clicking on the “reservations” button takes customers to the reservations information page. The simplicity of this page adds clarity to the directions. The page tells customers to call or book online, as well as the restaurant conditions to set expectations and increase exclusivity and demand. The final element is an email address for group reservations. 

Web page, showing Bookenda reservations page, text boxes to enter email and other contact info

3. When customers select “book online,” they’re taken to a page hosted by Bookenda: A TouchBistro Company, which is Wynona’s reservations tool. This page contains a photo of the restaurant and a simple widget where customers can request a date, time, and party size to find a table. 

Wynona Restaurants Reservations page, full list of questions asked by restaurant about reservation

4. After customers click “find a table,” they see a pop up that prompts them to submit more personal information like name, phone, and email. They’re given the option to create an account or log in via Facebook. This lets customers create guest profiles so that restaurant can save information about their dining experience.

The form also lets guests provide additional information like:

  • Preferred communication method – Options like email or phone are available
  • Special requests – Is it a special occasion? Do the guests have allergies? Do they want to request a specific table?
  • First visit? – Use this to give first time customers an extra special experience to convert them into regulars.
  • Opt in to marketing – This option gives restaurants permission to send marketing messages to customers via email and/or SMS.
Wynona online restaurant reservation confirmation receipt

5. After customers fill out the form, they’re taken to a confirmation page where they can see the restaurant’s address and the time and date of their reservation. They have the opportunity to invite a friend to the reservation through email or share their reservation on Facebook and Twitter.

11 Ways to Optimize and Increase Online Restaurant Reservations

Need inspiration for how to make your online reservations easier to find and use?

We’re serving up a dozen ways to optimize and increase your online restaurant reservations.

1. Use UX Design Principles 

Follow the principles of user experience (UX) design. UX is design influenced by function rather than aesthetics. Apply these UX basics to boost reservations:

  • Hierarchy – In UX design, there is a hierarchy of information. The most important element on a web page will be larger than the rest or highlighted in a contrasting color to draw attention to it. In our example on Wynona’s website, the red bar announcing brunch was the most important element on the homepage. After that, the eye is drawn to the “reservations” button because it is highlighted in a color that contrasts the rest of the page. 
  • Simplicity – “Don’t Make Me Think” is a book title and mantra that sums up the simplicity of good web design. If users have to think about how to use your website, it’s too complicated. Visitors should be able to accomplish what they came there to do (like make a reservation or check out a menu) in as few steps as possible.

When your restaurant website design is intuitive, it’ll be easier for customers to make reservations, which will increase revenue. 

2. Have Multiple Touchpoints for Reservations

Don’t include reservations information on just one place on your website. Instead, include it in the main menu and on the body of several pages.

On the main menu, include a call to action by writing “Make a Reservation” instead of just “Reservations” to encourage people to act! Include a reservations button or widget on any page where customers will be making a decision about your restaurant, such as at the top or bottom of the menu page. 

If your restaurant’s website has an events page, this is another great spot for a reservations link. 

Giving people more chances to make a reservation on your website makes them more likely to do so. The fewer steps they have to take to get there, the more likely they are to go through with it. 

Woman sitting in cafe, close up of her hands using smartphone to make an online restaurant reservation

3. Make It Mobile Friendly

More than half of all web traffic occurs on mobile devices. If your restaurant’s website design isn’t optimized for small screens, you could be missing out on a lot of customers. 

Visit your restaurant’s website from a smartphone and iPad to see if it’s easy to read on those devices and if the design translates well from desktop. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile traffic, ask your web developer to build you a responsive website. If you built your own website via WordPress, you can switch to a responsive theme. If you built it via Squarespace or Wix, the site should already be mobile-friendly.

Did you know that 57% of traffic now comes from mobile? If over half of your website viewers have to zoom in on their mobile phones to find your reservations page, they may not make a reservation because it’s just too difficult.

4. Social Media Pages 

Your restaurant’s online reservations page shouldn’t just be linked on your website. Include this link in the about section of your restaurant’s Facebook page and in your restaurant’s Instagram and Twitter bios.

This is just adding more opportunities for people to book that table!

5. Use Email to Your Advantage

Does your restaurant send out marketing emails? Include a link to online reservations in the footer of each newsletter. 

Additionally, you can instruct employees to link to the reservations page in their professional email signatures.

6. SMS Marketing 

When customers give you permission (through your reservation management platform) to contact them via text message, send them periodic reminders to revisit your restaurant and include a reservation link in the message. This technique will help you turn first-time visitors into lucrative regulars.

7. Optimize Your Reservations Page

Bookenda: A TouchBistro Company gives you the opportunity to share photos of your restaurant on its reservations booking page. If diners are choosing between your restaurant and another, their decision could come down to an image. Optimize your booking page with enticing photos of your food and of customers having a good time. 

The booking page also includes guest reviews, so ask customers to review their experience to give people even more reason to visit your restaurant. 

8. Run Google Ads

By running ads on Google, you can get discovered by new customers searching for a dinner spot, people who may not know about your restaurant. For example, if your restaurant doesn’t organically appear when people search “romantic restaurants in Toronto,” you can opt for paid ads on Google that help your website getfeatured at the top of search engine results for that search query.

This technique will get you more web traffic from customers who may not have discovered your restaurant otherwise. When you optimize your restaurant’s website design by placing reservation links in the right places, this boost in web traffic will lead to an increase in reservations.

9. Run Social Media Ads

Did you know that Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter let you run ads that target people who like your competitors? Run social media ads to continue to reach out to new audiences that you already know are enjoying restaurant similar to yours! 

Group of friends taking pictures of meal on table including pizza, pasta and salad

10. Partner with Influencers

Invite social media influencers and food bloggers to your restaurant for an exclusive dining experience. In exchange for the meal, ask them to include links to your reservations page in their review of the restaurant.

11. Update Other Online Listings

Beyond your restaurant’s website and social media profiles, add your restaurant’s reservations link to its other online listings. Link to your reservations page on TripAdvisor, Google My Business, and Foursquare accounts to get more people closer to becoming customers. 

Online restaurant reservations make it easier than ever for potential customers to become paying guests. With more reservations, your restaurant will increase its revenue and be able to better prepare its inventory and staff for a shift. Optimize your restaurant’s web presence – from website to social media and review sites – to make it simple for customers to make reservations.

Katie is the Content Marketing Specialist at TouchBistro where she writes about food and restaurant experiences. She doesn’t shy away from the finer things in life, but no matter how much success she continues to acquire, she stays true to her roots and still considers imitation crab as gourmet. If she isn’t writing, you can find her on a patio with friends and a pitcher of white wine sangria.

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