Online booking is big business

Operators must deliver on customers’ tech needs, says report

Man using mobile phone
Zonal’s Go Technology report found that reserving a table online is more popular than ever.

RESERVING a table online has officially overtaken the telephone as the preferred booking method for the first time, according to a recent report.

Edinburgh-based EPOS firm Zonal, which conducted research alongside CGA, found that 45% of 5000 UK consumers would reserve a table in a pub or restaurant online, with just 20% saying they’d use the telephone. This is said to be a radical departure from four years ago, when more than half of those surveyed (58%) said they’d opt to reserve a table over the phone.

Zonal’s recent Go Technology report also highlighted other consumer changes that have been influenced by technology.

For example, almost half (49%) of those planning to visit the on-trade for food and drinks said that being able to pre-book a table is important.

Operators who respond to these changes in technology stand to benefit, said the report, which claimed that the average monthly spend on eating and drinking increases to an average of £87.83 compared to £74.68 for those who don’t pre-book.

However, licensees must ensure that staff are prepared to seat customers who pre-book at the agreed upon time; Zonal’s latest report found that the biggest complaint amongst more than a third (37%) of customers who pre-book a table is it not being available for the time it was reserved, which is closely followed by having to queue to get in (35%) and tables being occupied when they arrive (34%).

Charging customers a deposit ahead of their visit is also likely to put off diners, with one in five citing this as “a major annoyance”; this rises to 25% for 18 to 34 year olds.

However, larger bookings “are more prepared to pay a deposit”, according to the report.

David Charlton, Zonal’s commercial director, said: “We live in a digital age, where web booking has become part of everyday life for connected generations. Offering an online booking service is no longer a luxury for brands, it’s a given. Consumers expect to make reservations on the go 24/7 from their mobile device and they are not keen on phoning a venue to do so.”

And Karl Chessel, CGA business unit director, said pub, bar and restaurant customers “increasingly see booking as a necessary part of their eating and drinking experiences”.


Adding up the numbers: reservations

Almost half of UK consumers now reserve a table in a pub or restaurant online.

Nearly one in two of those planning to visit a restaurant say it’s important to book a table online.

More than a third of customers who pre-book a table will complain if it is not ready for the specified time.

One in four 18 to 34 year olds say it is a “major annoyance” to be charged a deposit for a table ahead of time.

– Zonal.