Should you allow online reservations for your restaurant?

With the rise of smartphones and our complex reliance on the internet (i.e, social media) it is more important than ever to allow your restaurant to function online as much as possible.  One of the best ways to do this is by offering your guests the ability to make online reservations.  It's quick, easy, and helps your business more than you may think. 

In a 2015 study of 6000 US consumers from across the country, online reservation giant OpenTable found that an insane 88% of diners make reservations online.  That is a huge percentage of people who prefer making reservations online over calling restaurants directly.  It's also important to note that those numbers are from 3 years ago so they've undoubtedly grown since then.  It's easier than ever to make online reservations too.  Not only can consumers access reservation systems through a restaurant's website, they can also do so via their mobile device and even with the help of Alexa devices.  If you don't have online reservations active on your website, it's time for an update.    

There are a handful of companies that specialize in online reservation systems.  They typically integrate easily with your website platform but it's a good idea to do some research to find what best fits you.

OpenTable
OpenTable boasts one of the largest marketing platforms with 19 million diners per month.  It's designed to fill tables and offers incentives to users which is both good and not-so-great for your restaurant.  OpenTable encourages loyalty to the app rather than your restaurant so it's important to keep that in mind if you plan on offering any promotions for reservations made online.  On the other hand, OpenTable has a great Electronic Reservation Book which does everything from table management to return guest recognition.  

Tock
Perfect for booking reservations at restaurants that offer a bit more than a meal or has a very exclusive dining room, Tock gives restaurants the option to require guests to pay ahead from $10 to the entire cost of the meal - set by the restaurant.  Tock also offers variable pricing for restaurant owners to modify costs based on less busy days and times.

Resy
With a presence in over 80 markets, Resy is a great option for restaurants who are looking to bring in a different crowd.  Resy boasts an impressive 4.8% global no show rate and currently has over 2000 venues.  Resy Fly is an impressive feature which allows you to control everything from your dining room to shift coverage.

 

5 Tips for Getting More Restaurant Reviews Online.

When is the last time you went out to eat and blindly walked into a restaurant without searching for a review, photo or menu online?  You probably can't remember because, according to Open Table, 86% of consumers check restaurant menus before deciding to dine in.  On top of that, 60% of consumers reportedly read reviews from other diners. 

It's more important than ever to make sure you have a positive online presence not only with your website, but across all social platforms.  A recent study by Harvard Business School found that earning another star on Yelp could lead to a 9% increase in revenue for your restaurant!

Here are 5 tips for getting more restaurant reviews online to drive more people through your doors!

Encourage reviews
This may seem like a no-brainer but be sure to encourage your diners to leave a review whether it's a guest survey or a link to your Yelp page.  A great way to do this is through email campaigns and social media.  Simply ask your followers on social media to post a review and provide a link!  You can also reach out to your email list.  Everyone has an opinion about the food, environment, service - sometimes you just have to ask for it.

Be responsive
Got a bad review?  No problem!  Use this as an opportunity to connect to your customers.  By responding and resolving, you can turn a disgruntled guest into a loyal diner just by reaching out.  Not only will this change the optics of the bad review, it also shows potential guests that you are responsive and care about your customer base.

Be present
Make sure your restaurant is visible on as many social review sites as possible.  Everything from Yelp to Foursquare.  This includes your favorite social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.  Better yet, create a clever, personalized hashtag to use across all platforms.  This way, you can track your reviews, photos of plates and your guest's restaurant experience by searching for the tag!  Stay on top of your profiles and tags - "like" as many and comment often.  These may not be on formal review sites but even an Instagram post can serve as a review of your restaurant.

Brag
Got a great review?!  Scream it from the rooftops.  It's so important to leverage your positive reviews and turn them into more reviews for your restaurant.  Anytime you get a positive review, be sure to repost it on your social media accounts, print it in any promotions, and always include it on your website.  Make sure others can find it as well by providing a link.  This is a great way to show off your restaurant will while also encouraging your loyal guests to leave feedback!

Be the best
In order to get 5 star reviews, you have to offer 5 star service.  This should go without saying but just in case, offer the most purposeful hospitality from the moment your guests walk through the door, to the moment they get their keys from valet.  Whether you have a self-serve cafe or offer a luxury dining experience, be sure your staff is trained, your menus are inventive and your follow up is on point.  Your reviews will reflect your guest's experience and will play a major role in the growth of your restaurant.