Reservations and wait lists can help to draw customers to your restaurant—or they can cause problems that can irritate your regular Saturday evening crowd. No shows, late-shows, and shifting party sizes can cut into your bottom line and make it more difficult to seat those customers who have come on time. Let’s face it, no one likes a long wait for a restaurant table. There are several ways to make a reservation or wait list system work in your business’s favor. If you’re planning to introduce a reservation system or would like to streamline your existing one, the following tips will be helpful.
Reservation System Benefits
If a bad reservation system is prone to mishaps, why take reservations at all? There are several reasons to improving your reservation management system:
• Accepting reservations can increase your number of patrons by 30 percent or more.
• You can plan staff and cooking requirements accordingly.
• If expecting a large party for a big occasion, you can organize the dining room ahead of time which will make seating all patrons more efficient during that shift.
• Attract more customers simply through word-of-mouth. If your restaurant is well-known for seating diners quickly, then you’ll book larger parties, which means you’ll be bringing in more profit.
Make Your Reservation System Work For You
Managing your reservation system properly is the key, whether you expect 50 diners or 350. Think about your customers and the atmosphere they expect before and during dining.
• Accept online reservations. Your customers are likely looking for an easy way to reserve a table, and an online reservation system is convenient. Give them the option of making plans using their computer or mobile device. To help lessen the chance of a no-show, require them to list their cell phone number and email address when they reserve so that you can easily contact them with a reminder.
• Ask for a credit card when they reserve. Then, charge a fee if they don’t show or don’t cancel within a set amount of advance notice. This will help to ensure that if a customer’s plans change, they will be more inclined to let you know they won’t be coming so that their card isn’t charged. This is not always a popular approach, but it works in higher-end restaurants.
• Consider a wait list and call-ahead seating. Since a reservation system can decrease the amount of walk-in traffic you may get, a wait list could work in your favor instead. That way, you can still guarantee seating for diners by using a wait-list approach. When diners come in, take their name and their cell phone number or give them a buzzer. When their table is ready, call their name, text them, or activate the buzzer. A call-ahead process organizes patrons in a similar way, with diners telling the restaurant what time they’re coming. That way, the host can prepare for their arrival and arrange them on the seating list.
• Train your front of the house staff. Your host staff will need to learn how the new or improved reservation or wait list system operates. Be sure they are keeping track of reservation times and working together to perfect the process. Listen to their suggestions for additional streamlining opportunities to continually improve how your restaurant takes reservations.
An organized and well-planned reservation system can attract new diners and satisfy your regulars, too. What tips do you have to share?