Hospitality businesses are going through a digital transformation, so how can a restaurant booking system help your venue keep up and grow in the future? In this article, we’ll share three crucial pieces of advice on what restaurant booking systems are and how to choose the right solution.
Colin Winning, CEO of ResDiary, has seen it all in almost 20 years of providing technological solutions to the hospitality industry, and is fully aware that while many businesses are at different stages in their adoption of technology, we are an industry that’s very much in transition.
Whatever challenges your venue is facing, which may include switching from pen and paper, amplifying your online presence, or improving customer experience, the right restaurant booking system can play a key role in helping you move forward.
As Colin explained in ResDiary’s Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Booking Systems, “Good restaurant booking systems are designed to do so much more than just organise bookings - although that provides tremendous value in itself. The right system can help to keep your business moving, helping things run more smoothly, and making life easier for your staff and your customers.”
We’ve taken some of the key topics of discussion and features you should be aware of from that guide to give you an overview of not just how to choose the right reservation system for your venue, but also to show how extensive the value can be to your customers, staff, and importantly, your revenue.
Why does your venue need a restaurant booking system?
The first question to ask is, why are you thinking about changing the way you manage your bookings. What are your greatest challenges in your venue (or venues if you’re running a chain or portfolio of sites)?
At ResDiary, our clients have turned to us for a wide range of reasons. Many want to progress from pen and paper to something that’s easier to manage, more reliable, and scalable. Others know they need to increase their presence online to attract more diners and help grow their revenue.
A prevalent problem nowadays is the high cost of no-shows, which are people who fail to turn up to their reserved slot without giving notice to the venue. They cost the industry £12.6bn a year.
Some venues who already have a digital solution in place are looking to switch because of high commission rates on bookings or a lack of features.
Whatever your challenges might be, pay close attention to those major pain points, as this will help you determine which features might be most important to you, and a must-have in any restaurant booking system you’re thinking of choosing.
We’ll cover some of the most important ones in this article, but don’t forget you can read the full guide on restaurant booking systems right here.
Getting more customers through the door
It doesn’t matter if you’re running a restaurant, bar, hotel, or event venue, your revenue will always hinge on how many customers you can bring in. So, attracting diners is key.
There’s no denying that consumers have shifted their activity online, whether that’s for online shopping, booking holidays, or indeed, making reservations for eating out. We love to read reviews and peruse the menu online and on social media before making a final decision.
That’s why the fundamental role of a restaurant booking system is to make it easy for your customers to book online. This is often achieved by adding a widget to your website where customers can click to book.
But there can be more to it than that. You’ll no doubt spend a great deal of time, effort, and money trying to be seen online, and the right restaurant booking system should support you in this.
That’s why at ResDiary, we can help to make online bookings a breeze not just on your website, but also on social media (Facebook and Instagram) and via Reserve with Google too.
Better still, our clients get automatic access to Dish Cult, our diner-facing platform for discovering and booking at some of the UK’s favourite restaurants. With over 3m users and its own rewards programme launched in London in 2023, Dish Cult can provide a wealth of value and many new dedicated diners to your business - all at no extra cost!
The great news is that once you have attracted new customers through ResDiary or Dish Cult, their information is saved so that you can grow your marketing database and create tantalising offers to bring them back for more.
Making it easier to run your business
As previously mentioned, a great restaurant booking system can do so much more than simply take bookings online. In fact, our clients get a lot more value from the various features that make it easier to run a smooth service once those bookings are made.
Tackling table management
A table management system that’s efficient and easy to use would be in the ‘must-have’ column for most venues, thankfully this is included in most restaurant booking platforms.
As the guide suggests, table planning can be seriously stressful when you’re trying to juggle existing bookings while adding new ones, especially if the plan constantly needs updating. A platform like ResDiary can help to take that burden off your plate by automating many of those tasks.
Creating a smart table plan is one thing, but it’s another to know what the limits are for your staff when it comes to running a smooth service, which equates to an enjoyable experience for your customers.
The temptation may always be there to fill every space possible whenever possible, but you can probably imagine a time when you were in a busy restaurant at around 7pm and had to wait what felt like forever for your meal.
Your restaurant booking system should help you manage the flow of diners to maximise every booking opportunity without it being detrimental to your customers’ experience.
With ResDiary, it’s pretty simple. You set the rules and the system does the hard work accordingly. That way your staff can focus on serving your customers!
Everything in one place
Most businesses already rely on technology to help them run nowadays. Restaurants and bars have EPoS (Electronic Point of Sale) systems, and Hotels have PMS (Property Management Systems), for example.
Plus, you’ve got systems for managing staff rotas and payroll, marketing, and myriad other business functions that are probably supported by software.
It makes sense for some of these systems to work together and your restaurant booking system should be no different. One particularly common partnership is between your restaurant booking system and EPoS. This makes sense because there can be so much rich customer data that can be shared and analysed between the two.
No more no-shows
No-shows are costing hospitality businesses billions of pounds every year, as we mentioned above. In fact, a recent survey conducted by ResDiary found that the venues involved had lost on average £1,325 to no-shows in January and February alone.
That’s why it has become all the more important to tackle no-shows and the right restaurant booking systems can help.
Making deposits more palatable
The idea of asking for a deposit has given hospitality business managers feelings of anxiety in the past but we’ve seen a trend in more venues making deposits become the norm.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you always need to take deposit money up front; it can just be a case of taking a customer’s card details when they book in case a deposit needs to be paid.
Customers also appear to be more open to deposit programmes than we had perhaps first imagined, but the keys to a successful programme are transparency in the terms and ease of use.
Here’s where ResDiary can help, as not only can our platform take and store the customer’s card details at the time of booking, we can also share your cancellation policy details with them in our automated reminders
Keep everyone in the know
That’s right, another feature for the ‘must-have’ column in any restaurant booking system has to be the ability to remind customers about their booking.
People can be busy and sometimes forget to cancel or even attend their bookings, which can really mess things up in your service or simply cost your business revenue in a wasted table.
With ResDiary, you can automatically send reminders to your customers about their booking, which will include links to your cancellation policy and a link to amend or cancel their booking.
It probably sounds strange but making it easier for your customers to cancel their booking in good time can help your venue in the long run, as you can then resell their sitting.
ResDiary allows you to customise these messages to fit your brand so you remain in full control of your customers’ experience both in and outside of your venue.
Now you know three of the most important things you need to consider when choosing the right restaurant booking systems for your venue.
Remember, your challenges will be fundamental in your final decision as these will dictate which features you really need. With that being said, there are some absolute ‘must-haves’ for any booking system that we’ve covered in this article.
This is just the tip of the iceberg though, as there is so much more we could share with you, which is why your next step should be to read our Ultimate Guide on Restaurant Booking Systems.
You’ll find more information about some of the features we’ve covered here, plus a whole lot more on things like running promotions and creating events to help maximise revenue, and a long list of FAQs to help you choose the right solution.