The good and bad of online reservations

I’m not fond of placing my restaurant reservation online. However, as we move forward technologically it becomes harder to remain visible without an online presence.  Many restaurants have turned to the websphere for solutions  since the majority of us young folk (age 25-40 with disposable incomes)are connected most of the time.

Many a restaurant have chosen to buy into online reservation systems. The most prominent is OpenTable.com. Services like this have opened a new way for restaurants to manage their reservation books. Restaurateurs are becoming more and more sociable and open to the public thanks to the Food Network shows and exposure, so the pressure is on.

English: This is actually Tom's Restaurant, NY...

English: This is actually Tom’s Restaurant, NYC. Famous as Monk’s in Seinfeld, and as Tom’s Diner, in the Suzanne Vega song of that name. It is located at the northeast corner of W. 112th Street and Broadway in New York, close to the campus of Columbia University, in the same building as the Goddard Institute of Space Studies. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll do my best to break down the good and the bad of the of internet reservations:

THE GOOD

– Easy Reservation Managementuntil recently many reservations were made over the phone. This meant your phone had to be manned by a person all day long. Not having anyone available to task this can be frustrating for the person making the call, especially if it’s a same day reservation.

– Frees Valuable Staff:  While many restaurants have staff come in way before the doors open, they do so to get ready for service. Usually a good managed restaurant will have procedures in place, in order to be ready for opening. This requires man power to make sure all the mise en place is a go! Freeing a person from the phones makes for increased productivity and focused attention to detail.

– Better Management Diversity:  Many restaurant managers I know spend a lot of time putting out fires in the middle of the day-to-day operations. Having a said system helps tremendously in one aspect of the delegation process. The system virtually takes care of your sitting arrangement. It reduces the time spent trying to organize the sitting arrangement.

THE BAD

– Cost vs Cost: These type of systems aren’t cheap. They work by booking your seat at a premium price, usually $1 per seat. This is a cost that has to be accounted for and it will have an impact on your bottom line. If you have a restaurant that does 6000 covers a week and 30% to 40% of those seats come from online reservation services then the cost will be much higher. In turn the restaurant has to increase plate prices and forward you the cost of the online reservation. In the end it’s a dog chasing its tail kind of game.

– Extra Hardware: These type of systems are not integrated into the Point of Sale consoles like Squirrel or  Micros. Which means you have to LEASE a console that connects to your internet service. The service cost keeps adding up plus not to mention you will have to create space to park the main console. Some other services run of an Ipad which they also give but never the less the cost of all the hardware is extra and not included into the seat price.

– Usage Premiums: this one is good and bad. According to online reservation tracking, the systems help the restaurants to draw more traffic. It is said that bulk of online transactions happen between 12 am and 4 am including making reservations for hotel rooms, trips, air plane tickets and restaurant reservations. What this means is to the restaurateurs is a higher cost due to a higher amount of people coming through his door.

Online reservation is here to stay. It seems the only solution is to adapt into getting a system like this as part of your day-to-day operation. Smaller restaurants will have to bite the bullet and generate traffic through the systems. If I was a restaurant owner I would really consider getting one of these.

Is it beneficial to run an online reservation system for the sake of customer turn around? 

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