Ready or not, technology is here to make our lives easier. Restaurant technology is no different for business owners. Restaurant.org reported that “32 percent restaurant operators consider their operations to be lagging when it comes to technology use.” This is quite concerning considering that technology can work to make or break a restaurant owner’s hard work and business potential. This is especially true since 73% of diners believe that using restaurant technology can help improve their own experiences as a guest.
Since customers are the “bread and butter” of a restaurant’s success, it is important to use technology to help get customers in the door and then coming back. Reservation software is one way that technology has helped streamline this process and eliminate the panic of having available tables. Examples of the most widely used reservation software are: OpenTable, Reserve, Yelp Reservations, Resy, Eveve, DINR, Table Agent, Tablein, Bento Box and Toast.
The decision of which to use is unique to the restaurant. It can be best determined after assessing a restaurant’s needs and examining the key features of this type of software. Here are 5 key questions based on features to consider.
1. Do I Want Customers To Make Reservations Through An App Or Directly Through My Website?
This is something to consider when selecting a reservation software. You may want customers to make a reservation directly through your website so that they become familiar with your site and come back often. If you want to partner with the reservation software app, you may be able to get additional reach from customers who did not even think about dining with you. The app may suggest your restaurant. You may also choose a software that allows you to do both. Some websites hosts, such as Wordpress, have plugins, like Restaurant Reservations to facilitate this. Running Google advertisements can be used to funnel users your website to make reservations!
2. What Cost Am I Willing To Invest?
There are a variety of cost-effective ways to take reservations using technology. They vary from free to monthly or annual packages upwards of $1,000. Some contain fees per reservation that go back to the software company. It depends upon your needs, your investment choice, and weighing the worth and return on investment. Only you, as a restaurant owner can effectively decide this.
3. Do I Want My Reservation Option Linked Closely to My Restaurant’s Reviews?
Another option for easy reservations is through Yelp Reservations. A customer comes to Yelp seeking a great restaurant, then upon seeing your reviews, they can easily transition to making a reservation. Though this may not be the best situation if a restaurant has negative reviews, which can have the opposite effect. Another example is through Facebook. Business pages on Facebook are able to not only have people write recommendations or review them with the star system, but they may also allow for reservations.
4. Do I Want Integration With Other Apps, Systems, Or POS Software?
An example of a service that integrates with other softwares is SevenRooms. They have the ability to integrate with your POS data for guest analytics and Google for direct reservations. Another example is, Bento Box, who provide website hosting for restaurants and includes features like reservations for customers. Some reservation software easily converts to an application that customers can download and use quickly. Others may not have a user-friendly app, but may be linked directly to their website or connect with software that the restaurant already uses. In all of these instances, it is most important to discover what would be the best set-up for you. This is especially important if you are not as tech-savvy as you would like. Sometimes, one fully-integrated website server with multi-functionality works best.
5. What is the Technical Support Like?
This is another important question to ask yourself, especially if you are likely to need additional guidance or possible troubleshooting. It’s possible that Murphy’s Law comes into play on a busy Saturday evening when you really need your reservation software functioning perfectly. Some software companies boast 24/7 support. Others have normal business hours or extended ones that may not accommodate emergencies.
Reservation software assists restaurants by making it easier for customers to reserve a table and can potentially reduce customer wait times. It also frees up restaurant employees from answering phone inquiries and trying to organize seating and tables, which allows more time to interact with customers. Another benefit is that managers are better able to schedule and plan, adjusting marketing strategies in a pinch. Reservation software can also help to prepare kitchen staff for a slower or busier shift. Many of these systems are also able to accommodate integration into other platforms allowing them to work with website hosting and other apps or POS systems. Another pro is that some of the apps, such as Resy for example, are able to coordinate two-way texting.
There are also some cons to consider. One con is that some applications, like OpenTable, for example, use dining points that are app-centered. This means that they do not necessarily have to be used at only your restaurant and therefore not restaurant-centered loyalty points. Another thing to keep in mind is that some reservation applications can lead to a loss of money as some may contain difficult-to-understand cost structures and hidden fees.
With the multitude of restaurant available on each platform, depending on the software of your choice, your restaurant could get lost in the shuffle. One app, in particular, Resy, provides diners with featured restaurants to choose from. Even if you pay for the software, it is possible that your restaurant may or may not be featured. Also, some reservation softwares are geographically limited which also limits reach and target marketing opportunities.
Since 95% of restaurant owners believe that technology can have largely positive results, it is essential to invest in the ones that work best for your individual restaurant. More than 80% of restaurants are turning to technology to help their businesses succeed. As a result, restaurant owners have some work to do. There are many ways to allow restaurant reservation software to benefit your business. The hardest part is selecting which one is best for your business. Once you find the best fit for your business, the rest is gravy!
Please note that this article has not been promoted by any software provider, all thoughts are our own.