Summer can be a particularly busy time of year for many restaurants, bars, hotels, and event spaces, as the UK and Ireland’s tourist season ramps up. But it can also be a stressful time for hospitality businesses too, as a surprise heatwave or lack of passing trade can cause restaurant bookings to dry up.
Fear not! At ResDiary, we’ve seen many successful summers for hospitality businesses, and have acquired some useful tips and tricks for getting the most out of the middle months.
So, whether you’re baking or soaking this year, here are our four essential hot tips to a successful summer, and how your restaurant booking system can also help.
In this article we'll cover:
- Analysing your existing offering and operations, so you can plan effectively for the summer season
- Creating an effective plan for maximising your bookings and making the most of your space
- Creating an amazing offer to entice more trade, whether you're in a tourist hotspot or not
- Steps to successfully market your offer and win more bookings (with the help of smart hospitality systems)
Let's get started!
Tip 1. Analyse: Take stock of what you’ve got to offer and what your existing customers want
You have probably heard the saying, “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” Anyone who’s ever worked in a hospitality venue could also attest to that!
Good preparation starts with honest analysis, which will give you a clear picture of the landscape of your business. With the help of your EPOS (Electric Point of Sale) and your restaurant booking system, you should be able to look back at previous years’ data on things like table bookings, sales, and any special offers or restaurant promotions you ran.
It’s definitely worth considering the following areas:
- Most popular table size
- Average seating time
- Most popular booking times
- No-show levels
- Sales per service or on specific days
- Spend per head
- Most popular dishes
- Most popular special offers or promotions (if you ran any)
As we mentioned, your EPOS and restaurant booking systems should make it easy for you to access this information, they're your best source for such vital data. ResDiary’s Reports dashboard makes running analysis as simple as possible, especially when paired with your EPOS solution. You’ll be able to cross reference a lot of information and see what types of reservations are most likely to no-show, spend the most, and which seatings times were most profitable.
This can be harder if you don’t use an electronic restaurant booking system but there are ways around it. Always keep your paper book so you’re able to go back and take a look at previous years’ reservations, as this will help you at least find your average table size and the most popular booking times.
Tip 2. Take that information and put a plan in place
Now comes the fun part! You’ve done the analysis and it’s time to take action in order to boost your restaurant bookings and your sales this summer. If you’ve gathered the relevant information above, you should have a pretty good idea about what's possible and what your goals might be.
In this section, we’ve got some great ideas to share with you for making the most of your available space, attracting more diners, and providing a great experience to your customers.
Updating your table sizes and venue layout
We all know that the festive period is popular with big tables, but it’s not always that clear cut for the summertime. With that vital booking data to hand, you should be able to see last year’s most popular table options, and it may be the time to update your seating plan.
So, if the most popular booking was for four and your venue is mostly set up for twos, make sure you update your table plan as such. Whether you need to push tables together or drag a couple out from storage, ensure that you are able to accommodate as many people as best as you can. This could even mean creating a whole new section outdoors for the summer season.
It's important to ensure that your staff are fully aware of any updates you make to your seating plan, which is where your restaurant booking system can seriously help.
ResDiary allows you to create and update seating plans whenever you need to. It also gives you the power to create joins automatically and tell the system which tables you wish to sell first (and in what order). This can save your staff a lot of stress and reduce unnecessary errors when bookings are made.
If you do still manage bookings and your seating plan manually, a printout of your plan with guidance on moving or joining tables will be helpful for any staff who take bookings over the phone.
Alter your average seating times
Average seating times may be liable to change in the summer, depending on your average booking size, the time of day, and where your customers can sit.
This tip may only apply to you if you use an electronic system, as the information can be tricky to find otherwise, but you can still make an educated guess about optimum seating lengths if you do use a paper book or spreadsheet.
If you use a restaurant booking system like ResDiary, you can use our 'Booked Hours' report to see how long people stayed on average during the summer in the previous year. It can be skewed if your staff are not great at closing tables on your system, but it’s usually spot on if you use an EPOS that's linked with your reservation system.
Most venues will notice a change in the average seating time in different seasons - although overall it's generally somewhere between 90 minutes to two hours.
In the summer, you might want to increase the seating time for customers who sit outside or in larger groups (or both), as they may be more likely to spend more on cool desserts and drinks while they soak up the sunshine. Remember, you can always refer to your analysis on their spending habits too!
Spread out the most popular booking times
7.30pm is the most popular time for restaurant bookings pretty much across the board. However, for long summer days, you might find that people want to come later as they’re making the most of the sunshine earlier on - which means you can really make the most of those extended hours to maximise your sales.
By discovering your most popular times, you can take better control of your bookings. If the most popular booking times in your venue have shifted back to 8.00pm or 9.00pm, you may want to introduce an offer to attract more bookings before 7.00pm too.
You probably know from experience that you don’t want all your diners to appear at the same time, as that will strain your FOH and BOH staff, leaving them and your customers pretty frustrated! So, it's good practice to spread out your reservations as best as you can.
At ResDiary, we call this 'Yield Management' but you might also know it as 'pacing' and it means putting a cap on the amount of people or bookings that can occur per 15/30 minute intervals.
For example, if you know everyone will want to book at 8.00pm, you can increase the available reservations in the 30 minutes before and after then. This will stop a bottleneck happening at this time, and persuade people to book just before or after, creating a better flow in your venue.
The best bit is that once you set the rules, your restaurant booking system will do the hard work for you!
Reduce no-show levels
Many hospitality businesses report their no-show levels can be as high as 10%, especially in big cities. With margins as small as 3% for many hospitality venues, even just one table failing to turn up could be costly to your business.
Summer can be a tempting time for customers to forget their restaurant booking after an afternoon spent in the garden… or in a pub garden. Your analysis from last year might even show a rise in no-show diners during the summer months.
At ResDiary, we strongly recommend introducing deposits to any venue that is struggling with costly no-show diners.
Deposits allow you to take part-payment at the point of booking that can be redeemed against their bill providing they turn up or cancel within the Terms & Conditions. There is also the option of taking the full payment at the time of booking, which is a good idea if you’re offering a set menu or putting on a special event.
Tokenisation is probably the most popular form of payment, as it doesn’t actually take any money from customers upfront. Instead, it stores the customer card details safely, so you can charge the card in the event of the customer not showing up to their booking.
A deposit scheme combined with friendly reminders can help you keep your bookings. ResDiary has found that almost 50% of our venues now take some form of payment or tokenisation for restaurant bookings.
Our SMS reminders feature can also keep your customers in the know about their booking and make it easier for them to cancel well in advance if they need to, so you can quickly re-sell their table.
Tip 3. Try promotions and special offers to entice more customers
We’ve talked a lot about preparing your venue for the summer, but optimising your seating plan and preparing for no-shows is all a bit pointless if you don’t have restaurant bookings coming in. Now’s the time to talk about enticing more customers into your restaurant, bar, hotel, or event space.
There will likely be lots of venues in your area vying for diner’s attention and you need to ensure you’re at the forefront of their minds. This is where an attractive special offer or restaurant promotion can help.
While traditional ads are great, we’re going to stick to online marketing tips, as they’re generally the most cost-effective with the least output required on your side.
Think about what usually attracts people to your venue. Is it the food, the space, the location? Which of those things can you utilise to create a special or promotion that’s unique to your customer experience?
Also, what food ingredients are in season, and are any of them important to your area? What sort of dishes do people prefer this time of year, and what do they usually drink?
With all that considered, you and/or your team can come up with exciting ideas that could help boost your bookings and, in turn, your revenue during the summer months.
TOP TIP: Does your venue have a great outdoor space? Why not think consider screening the biggest sporting events, like Wimbledon and the Women's World Cup, or music events, like Glastonbury Festival or Reading and Leeds?
With ResDiary, you can create and manage promotions within the app, which also makes it easier to see which ones are working well to bring in more restaurant bookings. Customers can then choose specific promotions or events and pay in advance (if applicable) as part of their booking journey.
Don’t forget, you’ll also have a growing database in your restaurant booking system of people who you can share your new promotions with. That brings us nicely onto our final section; marketing!
Tip 4. Marketing: Shout about your summer offering
Yes, we’re all aware of the importance of marketing, but we’re just so busy. Whether you’ve come up with a new special offer or promotion or not, marketing will be vital in helping you bring in more bookings this summer.
The good news is we’re here to prove how it doesn’t have to require tons of effort, especially with the help of your restaurant booking system.
Update your website
First things first, though; your website is your shop window, the place where most people get their first impressions of your business. So, it’s important to update it with the latest information about any changes or new offers you’ve introduced for the summer season.
Don’t forget to check the following information:
- Opening hours - Whether you’re opening earlier or no longer closing in the afternoon for these days, make sure you’ve updated this on your site and on your Google Business profile and social accounts.
- Menus - While your main menus might not be changing, you’ll likely want to add in your special menus in a prominent spot, so potential diners can see exactly what you’re offering.
- Images - A new season is a great opportunity to give your website and social media accounts a fresh look. Get some new pictures online, showcasing your venue at its best, especially if you’ve got an outside space.
Spread the word on social media
With your website summer-ready, it’s time to tell the world about your venue and entice more bookings on social media.
Social media remains one of the best and most cost-effective ways to reach people online. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook make it really easy to promote your business, especially if you’re running unique offerings like beautiful summer menus or drinks deals.
In fact, with ResDiary you can also use Instagram and Facebook as another place to take bookings directly through the platforms!
Here are important points to consider to help maximise the value of your social media marketing efforts. You can also check out our social media eBook for a more in-depth overview:
- Show off your food - Beautiful, well-lit images of your best dishes will catch consumers’ eyes, and draw in more reservations. Look up some popular foodie accounts and see the kind of images they use that get the most engagement. Then recreate them with any special dishes you’re serving to generate some hype.
- Use videos - Video has transitioned from the background to being central to our social media consumption. So, it makes sense to include video in your strategy for promoting your restaurant, bar, hotel, or event space. Don’t worry - you can start simple with short reels on Instagram or TikTok, just showing a busy space that’s filled with customers!
- Get hashtagging - Yes, hashtagging is still integral in 2023 to helping you get more eyeballs on your social posts. Hashtags help people find photos or posts they’re interested in. Think about using tags like ‘#Glasgowalfresco’, ‘#bestlondonbeergardens’, or ‘#outsidediningdublin’ that are targeted and relevant to what your customers might be searching for.
- Add links - There’s no point spending time and money creating engaging posts if the customer isn’t directed to do something with it - like a booking button on your social page.
Add in a link to all your posts encouraging them to make a booking or visit your website. For specific holidays, it’s always good to set up promotions in your electronic diary so customers know exactly what they’re booking.
While you can’t add links to Instagram posts, you can add one at the top of your profile. To maximise this, we recommend using a service like Linktree which allows you to add multiple links from there.
- Target your audience - If you’re paying for social ads, you want to make the most of your budget. So make sure you target your ads to the people who will be most interested in seeing them. On the major social media channels, you can target by age, job titles, location and much more. After all, there’s no point in your ad being delivered to people in Liverpool if your venue is in Aberdeen...
Email marketing with help from your restaurant booking system
Some businesses are making the mistake of seeing marketing emails as a stressful or thankless endeavour - some people have even been scared off by GDPR. When actually, the opposite is true! Your database could be the key to an influx of restaurant bookings and more revenue this summer.
When a customer books through a restaurant booking system like ResDiary, they can opt-in to receive communications from your venue. This means your email list can grow with every new booking in a completely GDPR compliant way.
Why is this such good news for your business? Because your customer database is likely to be the best source of new bookings.
ResDiary also offers powerful integrations with leading CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems like Airship, which are designed to make it easy to create and send powerful marketing emails.
For example, you can use segmentation to create highly targeted email campaigns, which can help you deliver the right message to the right people. Plus, you can create automated customer journeys that are triggered by specific actions or events (welcome, birthday or lapsed customer journeys).
By doing that you can save time, deliver relevant content, and drive repeat bookings.
Real time booking data flows into Airship, all thanks to its integration with ResDiary, which Sam Brown, Chief Commercial Officer at Airship, has said: ‘Helps its customers create even more personalised experiences for their guests and makes it easier than ever for restaurants to connect with them, and drive loyalty through targeted messaging and offers."
There you have it, the hottest tips to boost your restaurant bookings and your revenue this summer. For some businesses, this time of year is vital to their success. For others, it can be more a matter of squeezing more value from a smaller pool of customers during the summer months.
Either way, our four key principles are the same. You must take stock and analyse what’s happening now and what happened in previous years, specifically in booking trends and customer spending habits. This information should be easily available if you use a digital restaurant booking system like ResDiary.
You can then use that information to organise your space to suit the needs of your customers and maximise bookings. Then, it’s about creating an enticing promotion or special offer to entice more customers in.
After all that is set up, you should use the power of your database and online networks to tell the world about your unique offering.