Download the Complete Guide to Restaurant Reservations to learn how to implement your own reservation system.
Why Are Restaurant Reservations Important for Business?
Restaurant reservations are important in the restaurant industry because they’re sometimes the first point of contact guests have with your restaurant. Reservations have evolved into a powerful tool that lets you give every guest a tailored experience, gain insights to help inform business decisions, keep your tables full, and increase revenue.
Reservations also let you prepare for service, staff appropriately, turn tables faster, and offer a memorable customer experience. Download the complete restaurant reservations guidelines now to learn all about optimizing reservations at your restaurant.
But before we dive into the different benefits and how you can most effectively use a reservations system in your restaurant, it’s important to understand the main purpose of having a reservations process.
What Is the Main Objective of the Reservation Process of a Restaurant?
The main objective of having a reservation process is to guarantee customers a table for the time they want. This lets you prepare for their visit and offer them the best possible experience with the information you collected during the reservations process.
This one step – of a guest making a reservation – opens the door to many benefits that will help you prepare efficiently, enhance the guest experience, and increase revenue.
Benefits of Taking Reservations
Taking reservations will benefit the people on your team from front-of-house to back, and show customers that you value their patronage, encouraging them to become repeat customers.
- Peace of mind: Customers get immediate peace of mind because they know you’ll have a table ready for them and won’t have to wait for one or, worse, change their plans and go somewhere else.
- Flexibility: With an online reservations system, you offer people flexibility because they can change their reservation details with just a few clicks.
- Fill more tables: Plus, you’ll be able to fill more tables than you would through walk-ins alone, making reservations an important way to increase revenue.
- Better staff scheduling: You’ll know how many guests to expect during certain days and times so you can make informed schedules and ensure you’re not over- or understaffing.
- More accurate wait time: Knowing how many guests to expect also helps you more accurately predict the wait time for walk-in customers so they won’t have to wait longer than they anticipated.
- Better dining experience: Guests can also tell you in advance if they have any dietary restrictions or allergies which you can plan ahead and ensure they have a better experience.
- Inventory planning: This also means you’ll have time to review your inventory and ensure you have everything you’ll need, especially when reservations are for bigger groups are scheduled or guests require certain recipe accommodations.
- Staff feel prepared: All this planning ahead will also benefit your kitchen staff and servers so they know what kind of workload to expect and if they need to do any special prep for the day ahead.
These benefits are examples of the value reservations can give you, the people on your team, and your customers.
Does Your Restaurant Need Reservations?
As useful as reservations are, not every restaurant will need them. Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether or not having a reservation system makes sense for you.
- Venue size: If your restaurant is small and has limited seating capacity, then it may not make sense to have a reservations system. On the other hand, if you have a large space, then reservations can help you fill tables more consistently.
- Food traffic: If you get a lot of walk-in guests and rarely have empty tables, then you may be fine without reservations. But if you sometimes struggle to fill tables, especially during certain days or times, then a reservations system can help.
- Peak hours: If your restaurant has high patronage during certain hours, a reservations system can help you and your staff plan for the day better.
- Type of cuisine and service: If the food you serve is not well suited to sit-down dining or you’re a quick service restaurant, then you likely don’t need to use reservations.
- Competition: If your competition is using reservations, you can use reservations to stay top of mind with old and new customers alike.
- Customer feedback: If your diners have been asking you about a reservations system or often call you to make reservations, then it might be time to get a more formal system.
If after considering all these factors you know that a reservation system is right for you, then next you should think about how exactly you want to take table reservations. You can also download the restaurant reservations guidelines to learn how to prepare for a new restaurant reservation system.
How to Take Table Reservations
Not sure how to take table reservations? Here are four common ways you can start accepting table reservations right away.
- Website: If your restaurant has a website, that is likely the first place most guests will check. It’s a simple process and offers a smooth user experience. Plus, it saves time because you can have a reservation form embedded on your site (or use a third-party platform) with all the necessary fields for the information you need.
- Email: This is another fast way for people to make reservations, but if they don’t know all the details you need, or if there are scheduling issues, you might have to email back and forth. This can create friction in the user experience that reservation systems prevent.
- Phone: This is also a common way people book tables at restaurants. It can, however, lead to human error when the staff member writing down the information makes a mistake. It can also be time-consuming to manually schedule reservations you took on the phone.
- In-person: If a guest happens to be in the area, they can pop in and make a reservation. While this is an easy process for guests, it makes it more difficult for you to estimate wait times and keep track of all your bookings (especially if you’re also receiving reservations from other methods).
It’s best to offer multiple methods of booking a table so guests can choose the experience that works best for them. But, as mentioned before, using an online system offers the most benefits for you and improves the customer experience of reserving a table.
Using an Online Reservation System to Book Tables
If you’re not sure about using an online reservation system, below are different ways online reservations can help you improve operations and increase reservations and revenue.
- Reduce errors: With an online system, customers can enter their details themselves, making errors that occur over the phone less likely and saving you time.
- Avoid overbooking and long wait time: You tell the system what your seating capacity is so it will prevent schedule conflicts. You can also leave some tables free in the system to allow walk-in guests to be seated without a long wait.
- Decrease no-shows: Online systems also help you reduce the odds of no-shows because you can send automated reminders at set time windows, like one day and three hours before the reservation. This can also help prevent guests from arriving late or at the wrong time. Additionally, it reminds them to cancel their reservation in advance if they can no longer make it, freeing up a table for you to give to someone else.
- Increase repeat customers: Online systems allow you to create a database of customers with their contact info on file. Then, you can tactfully email or text past guests to come another time, especially if you have a special promotion to entice them with.
- Surprise and delight guests: With an online reservations database, your front-of-house staff can also note down if your guests have any seating and food preferences and you can use those details to improve their experience the next time they visit. Maybe seat them at their favorite table or offer them a complimentary appetizer based on what they got last time.
- Collect feedback: Having permission to contact customers through your online system also means you can message them after their visit asking for feedback. This is a critical source of information for you to know what you’re doing right and where you can improve.
Restaurants have a lot to gain from having a well-thought-out reservation system. If you’re not sure where to begin or want to learn more about how to choose the right system for you, download the restaurant reservations guidelines today.