Leslie Park Lynn is a 15 year restaurant industry veteran.
Restaurants should always be looking for ways to build incremental sales and grow their business. One of the ways to accomplish this is to add an online booking system or improve the one they have. Today, there are a lot of options available to restaurants and each carry with it certain features and benefits. Restaurants should take the time to explore the market, weigh these features and benefits and compare costs to find the right fit for their operation.
Up until just a couple of years ago options were fairly limited for restaurants looking to book reservations online. This made adding a system fairly expensive and somewhat complicated. Restaurants had little or no ability to see into the system, analyze trends or access their customer data. But now, especially with the advent of cloud technology, the market has gotten quite competitive. The features of online booking systems are now quite robust and the choices for restaurants are plentiful.
Online Booking Through POS Systems
If you have an existing POS system, as most restaurants do, there are online booking systems that may be able to be added to your system. Or, you may opt to replace your POS system with one that has an online booking system built in. In either case, these will most likely be cloud based systems such as the up-and-coming popular system know as Epicuri. Far from just an online ordering system, Epicuri is a robust, cloud based POS system and customer management platform. It has the ability to welcome guests, manage orders wirelessly, manage bookings from multiple sources and settle payments. Customer data is stored and is easily accessed to help tailor future marketing efforts. These types of systems are generally subscription based applications and can be scaled to fit the needs of the operation.
Online Booking with Cloud Based Systems
In addition to POS based applications, there are stand alone, cloud based, online booking applications and customer management systems such as Digital Restaurant Cloud. With this multi-functional cloud platform restaurants are able to track and analyze their customer data, study consumer behavior and make marketing decisions based on real-time information. Additionally, restaurants are able to keep their finger on the pulse of revenue sources across social media and other online channels and monitor their reputation and customer sentiment as well as that of their competitors. Restaurants have the advantage of owning and maintaining their own customer data and paying a flat monthly fee for the service. These systems are flexible and adaptable and, generally, affordable.
Online Booking Through Traditional Applications
More traditional online booking systems such as OpenTable work off a completely different model and are transaction based. Restaurants pay per booking even when that booking originates from their own marketing efforts such as traffic driven to their website. OpenTable, through a widget placed on the restaurant’s website, redirects traffic to their own site to handle booking the reservation. Also, the restaurant can list their business on the OpenTable website and gain additional online bookings there. The downside to using traditional online booking sites is that restaurants do not own their own customer data and therefore cannot utilize it in future marketing efforts. In fact, online booking services such as these may actually direct advertising to your customers on behalf of your competition. Building a database of your customers, their dining habits and pertinent information is imperative in building effective marketing plans for the future so keep this in mind when considering online booking solutions such as these.
Don’t Miss The Opportunity To Really Get To Know Your Customers
Choosing and implementing an online booking system for your restaurant is an effective strategy for building good, solid sales growth for your business. In today’s digital landscape it has never been more important to keep your customers close. Understanding your customers, their preferences and opinions allows you to raise the level of customer service in your restaurant and, most importantly, deliver a superior and memorable customer experience. And this is what will continue to bring customers back to your business time and time again.