Cracking the Restaurant Reservations Code

by Marylise Fabro3 Min Read

Smartphones drastically changed the way we communicate and get information today. We don’t talk anymore –  we text, tweet or snapchat. We don’t read newspapers or buy the Zagat – we go online and search reviews. The impacts of these new trends on restaurant reservations are non-negligible. That’s why it is worth exploring this phenomenon, especially if your restaurant relies or wants to rely heavily on reservations.

Are you ready to study the numbers and crack the code?

92 percent of diners search online before they go out to eat

Yes, that’s staggering, and 88 percent trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. That makes it worth encouraging your patrons to review your restaurant, while ensuring that they had a top-notch experience to report.

84 percent visit a restaurant’s website before they make a reservation

The implications of this statistic are actually even more important to consider than the previous one. It is critical that you offer reservations directly from your restaurant website, because guests will come there before making a reservation. What if you could capture them right at that moment when they are making their decision? If you don’t have that option on your site, you might be missing some serious business. To facilitate the process, some restaurant reservation management systems offer easy-to-use widgets. It will literally take you mere minutes to have it up-and-running for some marginal costs.

52 percent of diners make reservations via the Internet (up to 74 percent in Washington, DC)

I think we are simply continuing to prove the importance of offering online reservations on your website, as discussed before. However, keep in mind that online reservations may also come from other sources, such as Yelp reservations or Tripadvisor. If you are not paying for the extra reservation services from them, make sure you have all of those sources set up appropriately, with an up-to-date link to your website.

71 percent would not pay for a reservation

I found this statistic interesting. While guests want the convenience to make a reservation, they are not ready to pay for it. As we all know, no-shows are a big problem for our industry. They are costly and aggravating. Making them pay is not the solution, but reminding them of their reservations – and providing easy ways to cancel – may encourage guests to do so, saving you the dread of empty tables.

30 percent of reservations are made when the restaurant is closed

While not surprising, it just shows that guests want the convenience of making a reservation when it pleases them. And to be honest, it will be so much easier for you, as well, because there is nothing more daunting than answering the phone to take a reservation while trying to manage a busy restaurant during lunch hour.  So yes, by making reservations available online, it will lighten your weight during your business hours.

 The #1 most important tech feature for guests is online reservations

They just like it and they have come to expect it, so why not give it to them.

 Only Nine percent of all reservations in Northern America are made through OpenTable

This number is interesting, because we have come to believe that OpenTable rules the online reservation business. Yet, while nine percent is not pocket change, it’s still not as high of a number as I had come to expect. It means that many reservations still happen over the phone, or from restaurant websites. Many patrons will research through search engines or review sites and then make a direct reservation for the location they choose. Be ready for it!

In short, offering online restaurant reservations from your website is a no brainer; every restaurant should make it their goal to have it on their site by the end of 2017. There is a healthy number of restaurant reservation systems available on the market, some fairly affordable and easy to use. Do your homework; it will be worth it.

Data sources: Restaurant.org; opentable.com; Zagat.

Marylise Fabro

@hostmeapp | Website

Marylise Fabro is Head of Marketing at Hostme App, which provides waitlist, reservation, and loyalty management solutions for restaurants. She likes to share her wealth of marketing and strategy knowledge with the restaurant industry.

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