As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted across the world, many diners are eager to return to their favourite restaurants. However, guest safety is still a top priority and many food operators are turning to reservation software to navigate the tricky business of fully reopening their dining rooms.
Reservation software not only gives you a way to control the flow of diners in and out of your restaurant, but it also provides an easy way to keep an eye on capacity – both of which are important in keeping staff and guests safe.
While reservation software is becoming essential to reopening, the technology is still new to many restaurateurs. In fact, a study conducted prior to the pandemic revealed that while one-third of operators had plans to adopt restaurant reservation software in the future, 57% were still relying on phone calls and walk-ins to make bookings. That means a big shift has to happen soon.
If you’re one of those restaurant owners who is new to reservation software, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about finding the right reservation system ahead of your restaurant reopening.
What Is Restaurant Reservation Software?
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 log book.
Though simple, the call ahead reservation model 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 manually becomes increasingly complex as more reservations pour in – something that can lead to errors and unhappy diners.
These challenges are precisely why restaurant reservations software has become so popular. Unlike the call ahead model, reservation software allows customers to book tables online and helps restaurants manage those bookings in real time. Everything is done digitally so customers can change or cancel their reservations through the same online portal, and restaurants can send emails or SMS text messages to confirm bookings. In other words, you can manage every step of the reservation process, all in one place.
Below, we cover 10 ways an online planner can help you safely reopen your restaurant or catering business in 2021.
1. Online Access
One of the biggest challenges that food operators are facing is a lack of consistent foot traffic. Though stay-at-home orders and dine-in restrictions have largely been lifted, many diners are still spending a lot of time at home. And with fewer diners on the street, restaurants without an online presence have become largely invisible. Adding online reservations not only helps you show up in local restaurant searches, but it also gives diners more ways to discover your venue – all without stepping outside.
2. Digital Waitlists
Health professionals agree that the transmission of COVID-19 primarily occurs when an individual comes in close contact with someone who has respiratory symptoms. As a result, crowded restaurant spaces, such as waiting areas and bars, present a major challenge when it comes to mitigating the spread of the virus.
Restaurant reservation software can easily solve the issue of crowded waiting areas by moving the experience online. With reservation software or dedicated waitlist apps, guests can add themselves to a restaurant’s waitlist remotely, allowing them to wait for an open table in their home, car, or another area.
3. Booking Management
One of the biggest benefits of restaurant reservation software is that it gives you a precise way to monitor venue capacity. For instance, most reservation software has tools like flow control that allow you to manage the number of covers or parties that can book reservations at a given time.
Similarly, you can use software to set maximum capacity limits, which caps the number of guests that can be seated in your restaurant at any point throughout a shift. As guests leave, the software updates to show your current available capacity. Using these tools, along with your table availability, you can ensure that you don’t exceed government-mandated capacity limits and risk your diners’ safety.
4. Floor Plan Management
Another challenge created by COVID-19 is the changes to your restaurant floor plan. Even in states and provinces that have lifted dining restrictions, many still have limits on how close diners can be or how many people can be seated at a table together.
A good reservations program will sync directly with the digital floor plan in your POS, giving you the flexibility to block off tables and save alternate layouts as you adjust to new guidelines. Table reservation software can also help you optimize the restaurant seating that is available. With fewer tables available, you can’t afford to have empty seats. Reservation software allows diners to book tables in real-time so any free tables can be claimed – even days or weeks in advance.
5. Reduce No-Shows
Though it’s impossible to completely eliminate the risk of no-shows, restaurant reservation software can help to keep that number low. With reservation software, SMS and email reminders and confirmations are sent to diners automatically. These reservations can even be synced with a diner’s calendar to ensure they don’t forget about their upcoming booking.
And even if a customer can’t make it, an online reservations program provides an easy way for them to change or cancel their booking, so you don’t continue to hold a table for them.
6. POS Integration
From major menu adjustments to adding online ordering, nearly every restaurant had to adjust its business model during the pandemic. And with continued changes to diner behaviour, it can be tough to wade through all the numbers to know what’s working and what’s not.
This is where restaurants can benefit from a reservation system that’s integrated with their restaurant POS. Integrated reservation software means that all reservation information flows directly to your POS to ensure that your front of house and back of house have a complete picture of what’s going on. This is especially helpful for restaurants working with smaller on skeleton crews, training new staff, or working out the kinks of a modified service.
Reopening a restaurant after months 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 seasoned restaurateurs. Though restaurant reservations software is no silver bullet, it can help to ease the weight of these new challenges. No longer just a “nice-to-have,” reservation software can be an essential part of the tricky transition to a post-vaccine world. If you’re looking for on ideal online planning service to help you make the transition, contact the experts at Linkeo Ltd today, and ask about our incredible Deliver By Linkeo platform.