Managing expectations

Online booking systems can help licensees tap into trends as well as bigger sales

Online reservation systems can help operators run their services more efficiently

AS consumers increasingly manage more of their lives from their smartphones, it makes sense that many search out and book restaurants with a swipe of a screen.

Instant access via smartphones has driven an “expectation of immediacy”, according to Olivia FitzGerald of Zonal (which counts online reservation system LiveRES within its portfolio), who said demand for instant, real-time online booking systems has “sharply increased” in the last few years.

“Therefore, having the capacity to take online reservations is a must for operators,” said FitzGerald.

“And given that most people are booking tables outside traditional office hours, it’s important that operators make sure that their online booking facility is easy to use on a mobile device, especially when people are browsing when commuting from work or watching TV after a busy day.”

But the growing popularity of online reservation systems goes beyond convenience, according to John Trueman of Quadranet, who reckons their purpose has changed.

“Ten years ago the reason for booking was to ensure you had a table for a special occasion,” said Trueman.

“Now the booking may be to gain a benefit.”

For example, he said operators using online reservation systems can offer customers loyalty points or a discount – so long as they book their table online.

The online booking system offers licensees a host of benefits, among which is a more efficient service day-to-day, according to Mike Conyers of ResDiary.

“As a consequence [of using an online reservation system], staff spend less time on the phone, and more time with guests when they visit their establishment,” said Conyers.

“Services are run smoothly as tables are taken at the best times and turned efficiently, according to the rules that the owner or manager has set up.

“In turn, customers gain a smooth booking service and have a better experience in the venue and therefore are more likely to return.”

FitzGerald of Zonal added that the right booking system will also allow operators to collect customer data, which will give them “insights into customers’ booking behaviours and needs, helping operators to further enhance the restaurant experience”.