Which Online Reservation Program Is Right For Your Restaurant?

As a restaurant owner you might be considering purchasing an online reservation program, but are feeling a bit hesitant. Hopefully this blog will help to explain a little more about the programs and how they can be very beneficial to your restaurant business.

Most restaurants have some sort of POS system.  The system may consist of 1 or up to 30 or more different stations throughout the restaurant. Within these systems, staff members are able to enter food and beverage orders, exchange money, and print receipts.  POS systems help your employees to be more efficient.  Just as these systems help your employees, online reservation programs can make it extremely easy for your prospective guests to make a reservation online at home or on the go via mobile applications.

There are several online reservation programs available, but the one that I have found to be the most helpful is OpenTable.  This program allows for you, the restaurant, to control as much or as little as you would like.  You are able to set your hours of operation in the program and customize them to certain days of the week.  You can also arrange for unique holiday hours or special events.

Of course the best part of this program is that it allows for guests to make reservations online.  They don’t have to call ahead and hope that their reservation is written down correctly or wait on hold; they can simply do it themselves.  In order for a guest to make an online reservation they enter the number in their party and then OpenTable will show them the times that are available for that specific date.  The guest then picks the appropriate time and enters their information and then they are done!  Guests can also use the OpenTable mobile app which allows for them to make reservations from anywhere.

When you set up your restaurant’s program with an OpenTable representative, you will discuss how many allotted people and reservations you would like per day and time.  For example, if the average turn time at your restaurant is 2 hours, the online reservation program will only allow for 2 reservations in one night, per table, if you are only open for 4 hours.  The program also uses your table numbers and map to assign guests to appropriate tables; a reservation for 5 people would then be reserved under a booth and not a small table for 2.

Another amazing part of this system is that the restaurant can block certain times and/or tables throughout a shift in advance.  If you already have 20 reservations that you have taken by phone for Friday night between 6 and 7 PM, you can block reservations between 7 and 8 so that your kitchen isn’t slowed down.  Or if a situation arises and you get a walk-in of 15 people, you can block tables in the program so that people aren’t making online reservations during that same time period.

Online reservation programs might not seem like they are worth the hassle and confusion, but I have found that after a short amount of time and practice it is well worth it.  Additionally, it can be used as a marketing tool for increasing traffic to your restaurant.  As a restaurant owner your ultimate goal is to increase your number of guests and enhance their experiences, and online reservation programs allow you to do this!


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