Restaurant operations are becoming more streamlined through technology, and restaurant reservations are no exception. In the past year, restaurant owners have been using their restaurant reservation systems in creative ways when it comes to socially distant in-house or outdoor dining, and online orders.
But aside from that, there are many benefits to using an online system for restaurant reservations – they free up your staff from time spent on the phone, give guests more control over their reservations, and provide more guest data and insights.
The 4 Best Restaurant Reservation Systems
There are many options out there, but the best restaurant reservation systems will not only help you manage reservations, they’ll also streamline operations, save money, reduce no-shows, and integrate with your POS to provide insights and analytics.
OpenTable is the world’s leading provider of online restaurant reservations, with an expansive diner network and a cloud-based hospitality product to help restaurants better manage reservations and fill more seats. OpenTable seats more than 28 million diners via online reservations each month, allowing guests to see real-time availability, reserve a table or join a waitlist around the globe.
Resy is a complete restaurant reservation and waitlist system. They offer cutting-edge software, fair pricing, and 24/7/365 customer service. The system also includes table management, ticketing, web booking, CRM, a mobile app, POS integration, and more.
Tock is a comprehensive reservation and table management platform built to help restaurants, bars, and wineries run better businesses and highlight their unique culinary experiences, all while providing superior hospitality. The restaurant reservation and table management platform helps restaurants save money, reduce no-shows, increase sales, and offer superior hospitality to every guest.
NextME is a mobile app that helps restaurateurs manage their waitlist of walk-in customers. After being added to the waitlist, customers receive a simple SMS text and web link to a page where they can monitor their position in line. NextME’s restaurant reservations system helps optimize waitlist operations by reducing walk-outs by 25%, doubling table turns, and improving guest and host satisfaction.
4 Ways to Use Your Restaurant Reservation System to Streamline and Optimize Operations
1. Make Online Reservations Easily Accessible to Guests
Ninety percent of guests research a restaurant online before deciding where to spend their money, so first and foremost you want to make sure that your online presence is optimized for Google search results. People always argue about where to eat, so unless you’re using the random restaurant generator, you’re going to want to be the first thing that comes up when doing research. Once you have all the necessary accounts set up and your website running, make it easy for guests to find your online restaurant reservations – you have just 15 seconds for a website visitor to find what they’re looking for before they click away and find somewhere else to go.
2. Decrease No-Shows With a Restaurant Reservation Deposit
No-shows on a restaurant reservation are frustrating during normal times, but especially when you’re operating at 50% capacity during a pandemic. Some restaurant reservation systems allow you to require a deposit when guests make a reservation. The deposit can easily be applied to the guest’s final bill, so they are not paying out any extra money after they dine, but a non-refundable deposit for no-shows is an incentive for them to either show up for the reservation or give a courtesy call if they need to cancel.
Some restaurants that are not opening their dining rooms currently are using tools like Tock to help stagger their online ordering tickets. Big King in Providence, RI, was not doing takeout pre-pandemic. Since they have a small dining room and are choosing to remain closed for the safety of their guests and staff, they pivoted to using Tock for online ordering. Guests place their order, reserve a time for pick-up as they would with an in-house reservation, and pre-pay for their meals.
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3. Be Clear About Time Limits and Policies
During peak hours, and especially when you’re unable to operate at 100% capacity, it’s important to set time limits, table capacities, and other rules for guests to adhere to. It’s easier to communicate these policies with an online restaurant reservations system since you can post them on the reservations site and in follow-up confirmation emails or text messages.
Some restaurant reservation policies to consider during peak hours:
- No-show or late policy: At what point do you give up a reserved table to a patiently waiting walk-in? (Many restaurants will give a 15-minute grace period.) What about if someone doesn’t show up at all? It could be time to require a deposit, as described above, if it becomes a persistent problem.
- Time limit policy: You don’t want guests to feel rushed or unwelcomed, but when you have back-to-back reservations, pandemic or not, tables need to be turned over in a timely manner for the next guest. Be clear about a limit to the amount of time spent at the table (generally we see them set at about two hours), and ask that the guest calls to make arrangements if they intend to stay longer.
- Number of guests at a table: Most states are limiting the number of people per gathering or who can be seated together in a restaurant. Many restaurant reservation systems will allow you to put a cap on the number of guests that a reservation can be made for, but also be sure to note the seating limit in your policy.
4. Use Guest Insights to Keep Them Coming Back
Using a combination of insights from your point-of-sale and from your restaurant reservations system, you can identify your return and VIP customers. By doing this, you can create targeted marketing materials based on their past orders, how often they visit, or how much they spend in a given time period.
You are also able to find guests who may not have ordered or dine with you for a while, and entice them to come back. For example, if a guest ordered the summer salad at every visit but hasn’t returned since it was taken off the menu, send them an email once it’s back on for the season. Additionally, you can offer periodic promos for a percentage off discount or free entree to VIP guests who visit frequently and/or spend over a certain amount of money in a time period.