Employee at a restaurant writing down a table reservation

November 6, 2020  

Balance, it’s all about the balance – the fine line between accommodating walk-ins and leaving enough space for your regulars.

Never fear, you can hit that mark and ensure you’re providing the best experience for all your customers. There isn’t a specific formula that will work for everyone, but there are tried and true methods that will get you the best results.

Having a restaurant booking system is an essential part of the business, it would make no sense to not have this already in some shape or form. If you truly want to nail your restaurant’s bookings and reservations, this guide will provide you will all the tricks of the trade.

In this day and age, the internet has not only made it easier for customers to make a reservation, or order food through food apps, they’ve made it imperative to do so. Otherwise, you’re only harming your business by not taking full advantage of the various means available.

Technology works in your favour to impact the guests’ experience in a positive way, leading to repeat business. This can include having an online ordering system such as an app or website option, with menu/takeaway options as well as the option to book a table.

Manage a restaurant effectively through efficient reservation software

You can make your restaurant run much more smoothly with reservation software, which would include staff members. The purpose here is to work out how many wait staff you’ll need each evening, which times will be peak hours and provide the kitchen staff ample time to prepare and handle the load.

Reservation software also eases the load on staff answering phone calls, as customers will make their reservations online instead. The software will organise the booking for you, removing human error and the risk of overbooking. When a customer cancels a booking, the reservation system will automatically know to allocate that time to another customer.

The ease of use for customers that comes through making reservations online improves their experience and overall opinion of the restaurant.  Further to this, returning customers can save their information to include any allergies, dietary requirements, favourite dishes and repeat orders.

Consider also, implementing an online waiting list which will automatically alert waiting customers if their booking is made available.

The old school method of making a reservation over the phone can work if you’ve got someone to keep on top of the books and deal with cancellations. However, in saying that, customers are unlikely to call back to cancel their reservation. Reservation software and/or an app removes this problem as it’s much easier to cancel a booking via an app.

A method for reducing no shows could be reminders via email, text or app notifications. This can work to either remind someone of a booking they might have forgotten they made, or prompt them to formally cancel their booking.

Streamline Your Reservations

Most customers know the best time to make dinner reservations, however this tends to depend on the event the reservation is for. Usually it’s a week or so in advance, but it can also be as little as an hour or so before. It’s up to you if you want your reservation software to have a cut-off period, where customers must book at least a day in advance.

SPACE! Your bookings need to also take capacity into consideration, which affects the number of customers and how the servers can navigate around the room. Reservations apps have the ability to calculate this when it comes to organising your bookings.

That’s why it’s important to know the average number of seats in your restaurant. If there is not enough space, customers will feel crammed in and there’s a higher chance of spillage. You also don’t want to keep the space so large that customers are too intimidated to come in.

Determine how much time it takes to prepare food. This will help in working out how long a customer will spend in the restaurant, coupled with the amount of time it will take them to eat their meal. Look at the portions of your food to determine roughly, the time it would take for customers to get through their meals.

Practise preparing meals and work out how long people will be seated and eating. For example, if you’re running an all-you-can-eat restaurant, it might be best to limit the amount of time to 90 minutes. This is because it provides enough time for the customer to feel they’re getting their money’s worth, without spending hours upon hours using up seating space.

Set Guidelines

Restaurant reservation guidelines can include charging a levy for cancellations if they’re too last minute, or if it’s a large group cancellation. Another important guideline or rule to implement is allowing a limited amount of time for a ‘no-show’ until you offer the seating to other customers.

Remember! Don’t put reservations on all your tables. You need to account for the walks-in and cancellations. Keep that balance.