HOW TO MAXIMISE RESERVATIONS AND BOOST SALES
Reservation systems are integral to the smooth running of a venue. They can help manage guest flow while maximising table covers and revenue. Lee Tennant from Access Hospitality shares best practice tips for implementing a reservation system and the key benefits it can offer your venue.
For decades, pubs have relied on a paper diary to help manage their bookings, with many operators finding it hard to break the habit. Nevertheless, holding onto this tradition and overlooking an online reservations system could prevent operators from maximising opportunities to boost business, and look after guests throughout the customer journey. Giving your guests a seamless booking experience encourages them to come back for more.
With online reservations, you can make your guests feel welcome before they even walk in the door and after they leave – think about online-only offers like arrival drinks to be served as soon as they’ve sat down or staying in touch with them through a connected CRM system, alerting them of upcoming events and offers.
It is not just having a complete customer journey which is a major benefit to moving from the pen and paper diary to a comprehensive online booking system, but it can boost enquiries, increase sales, tackle no-shows, help you manage your capacity and saves you valuable time that you can be spending delivering excellent service to your customers instead.
HOW TO FIND AN ONLINE BOOKING SYSTEM THAT WORKS FOR YOU
According to Think by Google, 87% of consumers use search engines to find a place to eat or drink, making it simple for them to find out when a table is available, and book straight through your website, social channels or even from Google. Every business is different, and every provider offers a different set of features, so when it comes to implementing an online booking system it’s important that you do your research and find one that’s the best fit for your business, and you can do that in a few simple steps:
- Make a list of all the features you need – for example customising the platform with your own branding, external calendar sync, reporting, offering upsell packages etc.
- Compare the different providers that meet your needs – factors such as price, support and reviews can be key deciders.
- Sign up for a trial – this allows you and your team to trial the software and get a feel for what it can offer.If you’re deciding between two solutions this is a good way to make an informed decision.
Once you’ve chosen the right booking system that works for your business, make sure to schedule time for relevant staff to be trained in how to use it.
MAKING THE BOOKING EXPERIENCE SEAMLESS AND ENJOYABLE
Enabling customers to book online ensures you never miss a booking, increasing reservations and maximising table covers through intelligent table and layout management. Consider offering pre-ordering options at the point of booking such as table snacks, a drinks package or meals from the kitchen. This can help guarantee sales before the customer has even entered your venue and helps the kitchen better prepare ahead of a busy service.
Comprehensive online technology can also help you push customers to your other venues if you are full, offering them alternative times and even put them into a virtual live wait queue, alerting them when a table is now available. Offering guests alternatives enables you to maximise your covers, and not hand over potential customers to your nearest competitors.
AVOIDING NO-SHOWS WITH STRONG COMMUNICATION
With operators being closed for so many months, you would expect customers to be clamouring for tables when they re-opened. This did happen. Bookings flooded in from customers desperate to dine out once again, but unfortunately some still failed to turn up and no-shows remain a problem for many hospitality businesses today.
The challenge presented by no-shows can be diminished by focusing on one key area – communication.
- Sending emails or texts to diners ahead of their reservations to confirm, letting them know you are looking forward to their custom, serves as a reminder that they have made the booking and that you’re expecting them to turn up. It also provides them with an opportunity to cancel the booking and free-up the table if they no longer require it.
*Other emails could be sent to give them information about their forthcoming meal – to highlight specials or deals – providing an incentive to show up for their reservation.
- Tailor the look and feel of all customer email communication to suit brand and messaging, helping provide a more personal touch and help with relationship building.
- Automated booking reminders, follow-ups and even inbound reservations emails can be managed in one place too, making life easier for any bar manager.
If enhanced communication between the point of booking and the reservation date does not reduce no-shows, consider taking a deposit, or pre-payment when a customer decides to make their reservation. The deposit could then be held if diners do not turn up for their booking. This practice is being adopted more widely across the industry and customers are becoming more accepting of it.
A survey by guest management experience company HGEM revealed almost two thirds of customers were happy to pay a deposit when booking at table at a restaurant.
Visual floor plans are a great feature some online booking systems offer that allow you to better plan service around reservations. Reservations can be dragged and dropped onto virtual tables for each day or service, so you can see where there is space and how often you can turn tables.
Having a visual guide to see which tables will be used and when, allows restaurant managers to plan staffing precisely and maximise space, which gives a great chance to boost profit.
GET CLOSER TO CUSTOMERS
An online booking system does more than manage reservations, the enhanced features support staff so they can provide an improved service to your customers.
When reservations are made online, guests’ details can also be captured in a database, so you can stay in touch with them and hopefully turn them into a loyal customer.
Here are some ways to stay connected with your guests online:
- Birthday, anniversary or special occasion – you can contact guests to offer then a voucher to encourage them to celebrate the occasion at your venue every year.
- New menu launch – let your guests be one of the first to know about a new menu and offer discount for them to come in and try.
- Promote specials – make guests aware of any new or limited time offers running they can avail of.
- Ask for feedback – follow up after a booking with a survey to learn more about their experience and get feedback.
- Reward loyalty – offer a discount or special offer to guests who have made a certain number of consecutive bookings.
- Send notifications – if bookings become available or conversely are filling up, you can update regulars to inform them, so they don’t miss out.
The data gleaned from online reservations could also be used to improve guest experience in-service, for example:
- Offer preferred seating – if the guest routinely requests a specific seating area in the restaurant or bar, identify the pattern and pre-empt their preference for their next visit.
- Make informed recommendations – you can make recommendations based on past purchase behaviour e.g. if a guest previously pre ordered a certain drink, bottle of wine or snack.
These touches, which remind customers that your business values their custom, as well as support staff, would not be possible – or would be an arduous task - for restaurants using a paper diary for reservations.
- Implementing a reservation system will boost enquiries and sales
- Giving customers the option of booking online will ensure you never miss a booking
- Use communication options that the reservation system provides to diminish the number of no-shows
- Manage capacity using your online booking system by planning your table layout virtually
- Utlilise CRM features to stay connected with guests and build loyalty
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