The importance of tailoring the booking experience


The importance of tailoring the booking experience

reserved table

The importance of tailoring the booking experience

Restaurants would be forgiven for having something of a love-hate relationship with their booking system. While it’s essential, of course, that guests are able to book a table online, there’s no doubt that this depersonalised method of booking has increased the number of no-shows.

A third of UK diners admit to booking a table and then failing to show, according to a survey by online booking platform OpenTable.

In response, some restaurants have decided to take deposits from guests in order to secure trade, or at least offset some of the damage if diners don’t turn up or cancel without adequate notice.

But asking customers to make a payment in advance can put them off booking altogether. After all, what if somebody is ill on the day or plans change at the last minute? You could argue that in such circumstances, restaurants deserve to be compensated in some sort of way, especially if the booking isn’t replaced. But, crucially, diners are unlikely to react well to the lack of flexibility with their booking.

Instead of looking to cover costs – or naming and shaming diners – would tailoring and optimising the booking experience lead to fewer no-shows and, perhaps, even more reservations?

Personalising the booking experience

The online reservation system you go for can make all the difference. By choosing one that provides in-built customer communication capabilities, operators can open up more ways to keep in touch with customers.

While you want to ensure that it’s easy for guests to book a table, you also want to make it easy for them to change or even cancel their booking. Not only might they be more inclined to book in the first place if they know they can adapt their reservation, they’d be more likely to show up – especially if they’re sent automated reminders.

It’s all about building a deeper relationship between the diner and the restaurant. But to do that you might need to do a bit more than just give them the ability to easily amend their booking.

How about giving guests the option of specifying if they’re booking for a special occasion or if they have any access needs that will need to be factored in ahead of their visit?

The more accommodating you show your restaurant to be, the more personalised the experience becomes for diners – and the less likely they are to no-show as a result.

Putting diners in charge

Going forward, booking systems will play an even greater role in building a great guest experience. We can foresee a future in which guests can book the exact table they’ll be seated at – a bit like you do when you book to go to the cinema. So, if they want a window seat, they don’t need to make a verbal or written request to the restaurant, they can book it there and then.

We can also imagine a world where diners are able to order their food in advance, either immediately after booking their table or in the period leading up to their reservation. According to research by Worldpay, 67% of 16 to 20 year olds are interested in placing their order online before travelling to a restaurant or bar.

Offering an order-in-advance service might also entice those 20% of millennials who say they go out less to restaurants now because they’re getting more food delivered that they would previously have gone out to eat, as per a YouGov survey from last year.

What’s certain is that there’s a lot more value to be extracted from booking systems that will elevate your guest experience, which could also help boost your profit margins and reduce your no-shows.

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