ith all of the pent-up demand to dine-in at restaurants coming to a head, now is the time for operators to reinvigorate the guest experience and maximize revenue. In order to successfully rebound and grow post-pandemic, operators are turning to restaurant table management systems to improve efficiency, collect and analyze customer data, and ultimately, deepen their relationships with guests.
But not all restaurant table management systems are cut from the same cloth. Some of the most popular systems on the market own your guest data, charge per-cover fees and SaaS fees, and have serious limitations with regard to functionality, POS integration, and customized customer communication.
Those table management systems that offered free or discounted services to lessen the financial burden on restaurants during the height of the pandemic are now coming to collect. Before you spend any more money, ask yourself: What value is my restaurant table management system actually providing?
In an effort to help you get the best bang for your buck, we’ve compiled a list of the most important features your restaurant table management system should have in order to ensure that your business rebounds stronger than ever.
Imagine a guest feeling like they’re being personally greeted by your host before they’ve even stepped foot in your restaurant. That’s the power of branding. Cohesive restaurant branding builds trust and trust is the foundation of customer loyalty.
The best restaurant table management systems put your brand front and center—not the app powering the experience. By branding every step of the customer journey, including landing pages that align with your brand’s visual direction and customized texts written in your brand voice, you can positively influence the perception of your restaurant and offer a sneak peek of the concept before guests arrive.
2. Real-Time, Streamlined Party Management
So long, silos. The best restaurant table management systems provide real-time, streamlined party management so that operators can efficiently manage dine-in parties, off-premise orders, reservations, and waitlist parties from a single list at the host stand. That means more guest-facing interaction, far less training, and no more bouncing between apps that don’t share data.
With the right technology in place, restaurants can optimize operations as service unfolds. Your table management system should provide automated updates through POS integration to keep your table statuses refreshed, as well as enable customizable configuration like push notifications, guest tags, and more.
To ensure the best possible guest experience, real-time communication is also key. With instant updates and two-way texting, you can ensure that guests no longer have to wonder about reservation availability, their position on the waitlist, or when their food will be ready for pickup.
3. Direct Booking
Your table management system should drive direct booking by meeting guests wherever they are—including search, social media, and owned channels (website, guest app, etc.). Guests crave a seamless user journey. The last thing they want is to be prompted to download another third party app and have to wade through countless listings just to find your restaurant.
In order to maximize discovery and conversion, the process for booking reservations or joining the waitlist must be quick, convenient, and intuitive. Customers will appreciate the opportunity to “Reserve Now” or “Book a Table” without having to jump through hoops, and by reducing this friction your business will reap the benefits.
4. Remote Waitlist
Whether you’re operating at reduced capacity or you’re back to business as usual, your table management system should enable guests to join the waitlist with one tap, from anywhere. Like a digital front door, this feature is advantageous to restaurants for multiple reasons.
For one, guests who join a restaurant waitlist remotely are more likely to stick out the wait than walk-ins. And, on the flip side, customers appreciate the comfort and convenience of remote booking from their couch or wherever they are.
Arguably the most important benefit to restaurant operators, though, is the ability to collect guest data. Even at times when there is no wait, operators can turn on a 0-5 minute waitlist to capture guest data that would otherwise be lost with an unidentified walk-in.
5. Restaurant Reservations and Ticketed Events
Much like the remote waitlist, guests should be able to book an online restaurant reservation with the click of a button, no matter where they find you. A feature-rich table management system will not only provide this functionality, but also give you the option to turn on a nominal reservation fee—a proven tactic for reducing cancellations.
Bigalora Wood Fired Cucina, for example, saw a significant reduction in no shows by charging a $5 non-refundable booking fee to reserve seating in one of its outdoor igloos. “We started with about a 20% cancellation no-show rate,” said Dan Doerfling, SVP of Restaurant Operations at Bigalora in a recent Wisely webinar. “Once we put the fee in place, we reduced our no-show cancellation rates by about 10%.”
Over time, a nominal reservation fee can have a big impact on your P&L. Think of it this way: At $5 per reservation, a restaurant with 50 reservations per day could generate close to $100K from fees alone over the course of a year.
Furthermore, the best systems provide users the option to easily create and manage special reservations or ticketed events. From convenient, pre-paid restaurant bookings to customized floor plans and advanced table assignments, an end-to-end table management system will streamline operations.
6. Data Ownership
In order to effectively revitalize the guest experience and maximize revenue at restaurants, customer data is key. Just as Amazon uses data to personalize the shopping experience, restaurants can and should be collecting and analyzing guest data in order to improve the overall dining experience.
And yet, countless restaurant operators don’t own their data. Some of the most well-known table management systems on the market use restaurant data to bolster their own business, rather than the restaurants themselves.
Your restaurant, your data. Don’t settle for anything less.
7. No Hidden Fees
During the last year, many restaurants learned that third-party food delivery apps are a double-edged sword. For some, they were a lifeline when restaurant doors closed, but exorbitant service fees did a lot more harm than good.
When evaluating which table management system is best for your restaurant, you’ll want to be on the lookout for similar types of fees. Some of the most well-known players charge transaction fees, or per-cover fees, for booking reservations through their system, in addition to SaaS fees.
A small per-cover fee may not sound like much at first, but it can add up quickly. For instance, if the per-cover fee is $1 and you’re doing 100 reservation covers per day at 10 locations, after one year, that adds up to $365,000 in cover fees alone. Layer on the SaaS fee, and you’re looking at a hefty sum.
It’s also worth noting that your customer acquisition cost for repeat and regular guests should be $0 when they book directly through your restaurant. If you’re paying per-cover fees, you’re paying to re-acquire your regulars every time they visit.
In 2021, consumers don’t just prefer data-driven personalization, they expect it. Operators need to find ways to tailor each diner’s experience to continuously drive customer satisfaction and retention.
By giving customers the option to share their dietary restrictions, location preferences, and more via a guest profile, your table management system can facilitate restaurant marketing automation that is specifically tailored to their unique interests instead of irrelevant demographic targeting.
The best systems automatically connect guest details, like birthdays, from the restaurant CRM to the app for more personalized guest communication. PF. Chang’s table management system, for instance, automatically flags rewards members upon arrival so that managers and servers can greet guests accordingly.
Can Your Restaurant Table Management System Do That?
In order to provide the best customer experience possible in 2021, restaurants need the best tools at their disposal. By leveraging the power of a feature-rich table management system, restaurants can not only fill seats, but also increase customer retention, and maximize revenue.
If basic features and siloed software aren’t taking your business to the next level, you need and deserve an end-to-end restaurant table management system that can do it all.
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