Dirty Tricks Used By Booking Sites

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Warning:

This document will teach you about the downright underhanded tactics used by predatory booking providers to claw away your profits and erode your loyal customer base. 

Plus - learn what critical functions you need to help your business thrive.

Are you paying commissions to your online provider?

Are you progressively losing customer loyalty due to constant promotional interruptions on their sites?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone!

In this blog, you’ll learn how to identify the dirty tricks used by aggregator booking sites. Plus, you’ll get some invaluable insights into how to achieve the best results utilising a self-managed booking platform.

Before we start....

Before we get started, it’s worth mentioning that there are a lot of restaurants trying to take the easy route with website forms that aren’t automated. They’re set up so the customer enters the day and time they want to be seated in a restaurant, then they have to wait on restaurant staff to call them to confirm the reservation.

There was a time when that made sense, but not anymore! Today’s customer wants instant gratification. We all expect to get things done on our phones right when we think about it, not waiting for a confirmation call, or multiple touch points. 

When you look at it from the other side - how much time are restaurants and their staff wasting calling everyone who books with them? Customers will take instant confirmation over a personal touch any day!

Just automate the process. Take all the friction out of booking so you can focus on your food and enjoying the revenue from happy customers.

Okay, I’m done standing on my podium to complain about website forms which require call-backs. Let’s get into the dirty tricks used by some sneaky third-party sites, that you need to be look out for.

Dirty Trick 1: Stealing your customers

Aggregate sites are redirecting traffic from your Google Business page - so your customers book through them instead!

Aggregator booking sites can use several tactics to get between a restaurant and their customers. They ultimately want your customers to book through them so they can charge a fee; they’ve even been known to go so far as marketing against restaurants/cafes in an effort to achieve this.

Aggregate sites are known to buy Adwords for restaurant names to encourage customers to book via them, rather than the actual restaurant. 

Their ads appear each time a customer searches for the restaurant and will be positioned at the top of the search results (above the actual restaurant’s URL). 

This strategy enables them to command an enormous amount of traffic and funnel customers to their site to make the booking.

Not only can this cause a lot of confusion for customers (as often numerous other restaurants are presented as an alternative), but it also means restaurants are being charged for a booking which their customers otherwise would have made directly with them.

Check to see if aggregator sites are using this strategy with your restaurant’s name. If they are…

HERE’S HOW TO FIGHT BACK: 

Immediately demand they stop - you are throwing money away for nothing - and get serious about it! It can take dozens of demands to have these removed and Google will not assist you in this endeavour. If you still want your own Adword presence, do it directly - you’ll be shocked at the margin!

Dirty Trick 2: Squeezing you for more $$$

Often the only way you can get decent exposure on aggregate sites is to constantly pay for ‘sponsorships’, or offer discount codes!

Aggregate booking sites profess that by aligning with them, your establishment will gain exposure to a huge number of potential customers - and their bookings - for a small fee (per booking).

Have you found out the hard way this is far from the truth?

More and more, aggregator sites are enticing restaurants and cafes with this promise, only for it to later become clear that for your restaurant to maintain its level of exposure, you must pay for promoted positions, or offer coupons and discounts which can be advertised to customers.

Suddenly, the ‘small booking fee’ you were willing to pay has morphed into more sponsorship dollars and discount codes than you had ever planned on - resulting in any benefit from additional bookings flying right out the window. 

Even if you say no to the constant requests for more money, other restaurants keep feeding the beast resulting in your customers being pushed offers from your competitors. This ultimately trains customers to only visit restaurants which offer discount vouchers, rather than establishing loyalty to those which offer great service and excellent meals.

HERE’S HOW TO FIGHT BACK:

Align yourself with a self-managed and branded booking platform which offers comprehensive booking functionality and ensures your customers only hear from you with updates, specials, and VIP offers that you approve - not the ones you feel forced to offer to maintain a share of voice on an aggregator site.

Dirty Trick 3: Holding your data ransom

You don’t actually own or have access to your ‘online booking’ customer data - the aggregator site keeps it all!

The modus operandi of many aggregator booking sites isn’t as simple as helping you facilitate your bookings.

In reality, they want to grow their database of contacts, with the aim of retargeting YOUR CUSTOMERS with promotions and deals from YOUR COMPETITORS.

It’s done by aggregators in an attempt to secure more bookings - via any one of the establishments they represent - so they can keep accumulating more and more money.

By capturing customer data (and holding onto it), booking aggregators are able to grow their databases - and their power and their income, all while limiting yours!

It’s no surprise that this strategic process has begun to cause great concern among the restaurant community. Aggregate sites are effectively preventing establishments from building up their own databases of customers, to whom they can properly remarket to.

HERE’S HOW TO FIGHT BACK:

Make use of an online booking system which gives your establishment full access to, and ownership of, your customer details. It’s the only way you can control how that data is exported, analysed and leveraged, to successfully engage and retain them.

Dirty Trick 4: Retargeting your customers with competitive offers

Your customers are constantly being spammed by aggregate sites and they’re sending offers to encourage customers to book with your competitors!

Today most restaurant owners understand the importance of their customer database. In fact, for many, their customer database plays a key role in increasing customer numbers during quiet periods.

But what many restaurant owners don’t know is that aggregate booking platforms regularly send promotions and discount coupons advertising and advocating their competition.

This is a direct consequence of Dirty Tricks 2 and 3. When aggregate sites are able to build huge databases of customers, combined with the power of playing establishments off against one another to secure meals, offers and vouchers, you’re going to be left with a platform which has the ability to do whatever it pleases; regardless of the consequences for each individual establishment allowing bookings under its umbrella.

It’s no surprise that restaurants are starting to notice a decrease in customer loyalty. It’s directly tied to the aggregator sites having access to such a large pool of customers. They flood them with information about new restaurants, competing offers and discount codes. No one wins but them!

To get an accurate idea of the promotions being sent to your customers, make a booking for your own restaurant via an aggregator site using a new email account. Then wait to see what communications flow your way!

HERE’S HOW TO FIGHT BACK:

Set up your restaurant with an online ordering provider which does not retarget your customers with competitive offers and preferably one which provides the facility to directly retarget your customers with your own promotions.

Dirty Trick 5: Emotional blackmail

Aggregator booking sites want you to feel like you don’t have an option other than to use them.

At first, it may seem that way, but better solutions are available.

Aggregator sites are often little more than a vampire ‘phone book’, which feeds off your bookings while building up their own customer databases.

Their systems do not have your best interests in mind, particularly when you’re working harder than ever to establish a base of loyal and engaged customers.

It’s because of these issues that the industry is seeing more and more restaurants move away from aggregator booking sites to find alternatives which put them back in control.

Are you ready to take back the reins of your booking platform? 

Contact us for a no-obligation chat. Whatever the current state of your online booking system, we’ll work with you to identify issues, suggest opportunities and help implement solutions which will get you back in control and paying way less!

Now is the time to learn the critical functions every world-class online booking system should have.

Now you know all about the dirty tricks you want to avoid from aggregator sites, it’s worth dedicating some time to understanding the critical functions you should look for when sourcing a self-managed booking widget/platform. 

A booking widget is the best way to take reservations automatically - no time or approval needed on your end. It makes the booking process smooth and flawless for everyone.

Making your table inventory available online is mandatory because customers are increasingly expecting this service, via their phones and smart devices. More than 25% of people make reservations exclusively online and good booking widgets make capturing these bookings - and the customer data - very easy.

A good booking widget will:

Allow guests to check availability and reserve tables online at anytime 

Reduce no shows by sending confirmations and reminders to your guests

Automatically add bookings to your digital reservation system

Any online booking platform/widget you’re considering should also allow you to do the following:

  1. View, manage and analyse your customer data, then develop relevant and powerful marketing campaigns from it.

  2. Input relevant terms and conditions, or announcements for your customers to review and agree to, prior to making a booking.

  3. Set up meal periods and define/edit blackout dates in peak seasons, or during busy periods.

  4. Seamlessly integrate with your website, social platforms and Google Places listing.

  5. Easily visualise all your bookings via a calendar layout.

  6. Implement time-specific rolling blackouts, preventing last-minute bookings which can’t be accommodated, or responded to in time.

  7. Combine and seamlessly integrate your booking functionality with other coveted and powerful systems, such as online ordering, customer marketing and table top ordering - for no extra cost.

Many years ago, booking widgets (platforms) were only able to be integrated into websites. But today, all good online booking platforms should give you the ability to use your booking system across a multitude of platforms, to include your website, social media pages and Google Places listing.

Make it easy for your customers to make bookings with you on the sites where they spend most of their time:

 

By now, you’re probably wondering how you’re going to find a platform which offers all of this for less than what you’re currently paying your booking aggregator, with no strings attached?

It’s as simple as contacting WOWAPPS

If you’re genuinely fed up with the dirty tricks online booking aggregators play and the fees they charge, WOWAPPS is the alternative you should be considering.

At WOWAPPS, we believe that paying per seat/booking is an unfair tax on your marketing efforts. 

Great marketing should increase revenue, not increase costs.

For no-commission online bookings which can easily integrate with your website and social platforms - and deliver all of the aforementioned benefits and features - give us a call for a no-obligation chat. 

Find out how we can help you implement a strategy which offers control and cost savings. Plus, we’ll work with you to implement a process which will migrate your customers away from aggregator sites to booking with you through your new, less expensive, self-managed, full-control system. Contact WOWAPPS now.

Tim Scott

Tim Mason Scott is an Australian based writer holding a Masters in Writing from Swinburne University of Technology. Tim specialises in SEO and is a great addition to the WOWAPPS Team.


Tags

Hospitality, Restaurants


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