The question of taking reservations or not is one that
plagues many restaurateurs. It is a practice that is fraught with challenges,
potential disappointments, and possible conflict. However, accepting
reservations can help you to fill your tables. If you are sitting on the fence
regarding your reservation policy, here are some considerations that might help
you make up your mind.
Keep Restaurant Chairs and Tables Busy
No matter how you slice it, you want to keep your seats
filled. Guests generate profits. If your goal is keeping your tables occupied
during business hours, reservations can help. One way they help is by letting
you manage larger groups. A large party may require more than one server. It
may also require you to move tables around and set off a section of your
restaurant for a specific purpose. By taking such a reservation, you can
anticipate your need.
The right reservation technology can get you connected to an
up-to-date segment of diners. Allowing guests to make their plans online gives
you a Web presence. This should be connected closely to your webpage and social
media accounts. OpenTable.com is one company that lets you handle reservations,
walking guests through the process, and helping you to fill those seats.
Will They Show?
One of the complaints heard most frequently among restaurant
owners is that people make reservations and don’t show up. This leaves the
owner with an empty table and no revenue. To combat this situation, you can
limit the length of time you hold a table or you can institute a penalty fee
for no-shows by taking a credit card number at the time of the reservation. Finding
the balance between losing sales and the potentially higher check of special
parties can be difficult.
How else can You Fill Tables?
If you run a
popular eatery, you won’t have any trouble filling those tables. Consider
keeping reservations as an option only for larger parties, say eight and up, or
for special occasions. Instead, let your hosts keep a waiting list. This
egalitarian approach seats people on a first-come, first-served basis, which
makes most people happy as long as they don’t wait too long. Many restaurants
have turned to beepers to inform their waiting guests that their tables are
ready, eliminating the need to fill the lobby while awaiting one’s turn.
is another option; a sort of middle ground between reservations and a “free for
all” situation. You have warning of an upcoming large party and can set up as
time allows; however, you don’t have to keep tables empty in the hope that the
party turns up as planned.