'Dying to dine out': The future of restaurant dining is reservation-only
If you're planning to dine out again in the near future, you're probably going to need a reservation to get in.
Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is for sure: dining in restaurants look very different. Between physical distancing regulations and mandatory capacity limits, restaurants and customers alike need to rethink the entire restaurant experience.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes to dining out is the spontaneity of it all. Instead of wandering in off the sidewalk in the middle of an evening stroll, now you’ll have to plan well in advance.
Fortunately, a restaurant booking platform can help to make that planning a whole lot easier. Reservation software not only gives you the chance to check if your reservation means you are not getting crammed alongside a bunch of other tables, but also a way for restaurants to control the flow of diners in and out, as well as an easy way to keep an eye on capacity.
It has become clear that not just reservations, but technology more broadly, can play a really important role in helping restaurants manage their business operations, deliver safer hospitality, add new revenue streams, and make themselves visible to diners.
While the restaurant booking platform is becoming essential to reopening, the technology is still new to many restaurateurs. If you're one of those restaurant owners, below is a list of things you need to know.
What is a restaurant booking platform?
Traditionally, accepting and managing restaurant reservations has been a pretty low-tech operation. Diners simply call up a restaurant to see if a table is available at a specific time and then their booking is recorded in a logbook.
Though simple, the old phone and logbook method is not without its challenges. On the one hand, limiting reservations to phone calls means that diners can only reserve tables when someone is there to answer the phone. And even if a diner is able to get through, coordinating seating times and tables by hand becomes increasingly complex as more reservations pour in – something that can lead to errors and unhappy guests.
Booking platforms allow customers to book tables online and help restaurants manage these bookings. Everything is done digitally so customers can change or cancel their reservations through the same online page, and restaurants can send emails or SMS text messages to confirm bookings.
4 benefits of a booking platform for the reopening
While reservation software has always been beneficial for restaurants, it has become an especially powerful tool in the wake of COVID-19. Not only does a restaurant booking platform help restaurants better manage the flow of diners, but it can also play a role in protecting public health.
1. Booking Management
Though every city and country has issued different rules for reopening, most have put caps on capacity to better allow for physical distancing. For restaurants that are used to packed dining rooms, this presents a new challenge of how to monitor capacity and avoid exceeding these limits.
One of the biggest benefits of a restaurant reservation system is that it gives you a precise way to monitor venue capacity. Similarly, you can use the system to set maximum capacity limits, which caps the number of guests that can be seated in your restaurant at any point throughout a shift.
2. Floor Plan Management
Another challenge created by COVID-19 is the changes to your restaurant floor plan. Even in countries that have lifted dining restrictions, there are strict limits on how close diners can be. These new layouts mean that restaurants must figure out how to make the most of the few tables they have left.
A good reservation platform can also help you optimize the restaurant seating that is available. With fewer tables available, you can’t afford to have empty seats. This will allow diners to book tables so any free tables can be claimed – even days or weeks in advance.
3. Two-Way Communication
For diners, part of the concern around restaurant reopenings is not knowing what to expect when they dine out again. With restaurants using everything from well-dressed mannequins to stuffed animals to enforce social distancing, diners have little context for what their next restaurant visit might look like.
A two-way communication with guests can help to answer diners’ urgent questions. For example, RSVP allows you to send email reminders and SMS texts to customers, so you can communicate in real-time. This direct line of communication allows you to explain how your floor plan may have changed or inform guests about new caps on the length of reservations, so there are no surprises the day of.
4. Reduce No-Shows
Prior to the pandemic, no-shows were already a concern for restaurateurs. But with increased anxieties around health and safety, no-show rates are expected to become an even bigger problem.
Though it’s impossible to completely eliminate the risk of no-shows, a restaurant booking platform can help to keep that number low. And even if a customer can’t make it, a restaurant booking platform provides an easy way for them to change or cancel their booking, so you don’t continue to hold a table for them. You can even use your reservation platform to ask for payment upfront with each reservation.
Reopening a restaurant after weeks of closure or reduced service is no easy task. Physical distancing, strict limits on venue capacity, and mandatory guest records all present unprecedented challenges for even the most brave restaurateurs. A restaurant booking platform can help to ease the weight of these new challenges; it can be an essential part of the tricky transition to a post-COVID world.
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