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How to chose the right table reservation system?

table reservation system

Choosing the right restaurant reservation system in 2024 can make or break your business.

The best systems streamline operations, enhance customer experience, and provide valuable insights for growth. But with so many options, how do you pick the one that fits your unique needs?

Let’s dive in.

Essential Features to Look for in a Restaurant Table Reservation System

Online reservation system

In today’s digital age, customers expect the convenience of making reservations directly from your own website or social media pages. A robust online reservation system should provide a user-friendly interface that allows customers to easily select their desired date, time, party size, and any special requests, helping you to get more bookings. This seamless booking process not only improves customer satisfaction but also reduces the workload on your staff, as they no longer need to handle the reservations over the phone.

Click to Dine: The Future of Dining?

Nearly half (48%) of reservations in Q3 2023 were made online, reflecting the growing trend of digital booking.

To further reduce no-shows and late cancellations, look for a system that automatically sends confirmation emails and SMS reminders to customers, enabling you to reduce missed reservations and optimize your restaurant operations to maximize revenue.

How Do You Book? There's Still an App for That (and a Phone!)

While online bookings are on the rise, phone reservations still held strong in Q3 2023, accounting for 37%.

Consider a table reservation system that integrates with popular third-party booking platforms like OpenTable, Resy, or Yelp to attract new guests. These integrations expand your reach and make it easier for more guests to discover and book tables at your restaurant. By leveraging the extensive user base of these platforms, you can attract new clients and increase your visibility in the competitive dining market, thereby helping you to enhance your restaurant business and make more money.

Restaurant Discovery Engine: Google Drives 72% First-Time Visitors:

72% of diners who reserved through Google were first-time visitors to the restaurant.

Table management and floor plan integration

An effective restaurant booking system should offer a visual representation of your restaurant’s layout, allowing you to manage reservations and track table availability, helping you to maximize your tables’ usage create a better guest experience, and increase your sales and revenue. This feature enables you to optimize seating arrangements based on party size and reservation time, ensuring that you maximize your restaurant’s capacity without compromising customer comfort.

Seating by Size:

42.3% of restaurants assign reservations to specific tables by party size when the reservation is made.

With a drag-and-drop floor plan interface, you can easily assign and reassign tables as needed, accommodating last-minute changes or special requests. This flexibility is particularly valuable during peak hours when efficient table management is critical to maintaining a smooth flow of service and minimizing wait times.

Seating Upon Arrival:

14.3% of restaurants do not assign reservations to specific tables until the party arrives.

Advanced table management features

Some advanced reservation systems offer features like automatic table assignment based on predefined rules, such as party size or reservation duration. This automation streamlines the seating process and reduces the risk of human error. Additionally, look for systems that provide detailed analytics on table turnover rates, average dining duration, and other key metrics, allowing you to make data-driven decisions to improve your restaurant’s performance.

The Average Reservation Time:

The average reservation lead time is only 1.5 days.

Customer relationship management (CRM) tools

A reservation system with built-in CRM tools can help you store and manage valuable customer data, including contact information, preferences, and dining history. By leveraging this information, you can personalize the dining experience for your guests, tailoring offers and promotions based on their individual preferences.

For example, suppose a customer has previously indicated a dietary restriction or a preference for a particular table. In that case, you can use this information to ensure that their needs are met during future visits. This level of personalization not only enhances customer satisfaction but also fosters loyalty and encourages repeat business.

Targeted marketing campaigns

CRM tools also enable you to segment your customer base and create targeted marketing campaigns. By analyzing customer data, you can identify patterns and trends, such as the most popular dishes, peak dining times, or customer anniversaries. This information can be used to create personalized email campaigns, SMS promotions, or social media ads that resonate with specific customer groups, driving repeat visits and increasing customer lifetime value.

Waitlist management and walk-in optimization

An efficient reservation system should also include waitlist management features to accommodate walk-in customers and optimize table utilization. Look for systems that allow you to easily add walk-in parties to a digital waitlist, estimate wait times based on current table availability, and send automated notifications when a table is ready.

By managing walk-ins effectively, you can minimize customer frustration and ensure that no table remains empty for too long. Some advanced systems even offer features like virtual queuing, allowing customers to check their position in line remotely and receive notifications when their table is almost ready, reducing perceived wait times and improving the overall customer experience.

Nearly a Quarter of Restaurant Tables Are Open for Walk-Ins:

43.7% of restaurants have a fixed ratio of reservations to walk-ins, with an average of 23.9% of tables held open for walk-ins.

Integration with restaurant paging systems

Consider a reservation system that integrates with restaurant paging systems, such as table buzzers or SMS notifications. These tools streamline the process of alerting customers when their table is ready, reducing congestion in the waiting area and allowing customers to explore nearby attractions or enjoy a drink at the bar while they wait.

Reporting and analytics

A comprehensive restaurant reservation system should provide detailed reporting and analytics to help you make informed business decisions. Look for systems that offer insights into key performance indicators (KPIs) such as reservation volume, no-show rates, average party size, and peak booking times.

Prime Time for Dining:

Weekends are prime dining time, with peak reservations between 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM.

By analyzing these metrics, you can identify trends and patterns in customer behavior, optimize your staffing levels, and make data-driven decisions to improve your restaurant’s overall performance. For example, if you notice a high no-show rate on certain days of the week, you can implement policies like requiring credit card deposits for reservations on those days to reduce the financial impact of no-shows.

Study Shows Strong Restaurant Demand in Q3:

A study revealed strong restaurant demand in Q3 2023, with 189,495 reservations booked across 400 establishments.

Customizable reports and dashboards

Some advanced reservation systems offer customizable reports and dashboards, allowing you to tailor the data to your specific needs. This flexibility enables you to focus on the metrics that matter most to your restaurant, whether it’s tracking the performance of a new menu item or monitoring the success of a promotional campaign.

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Evaluating Online Booking System Considerations

Ease of use for both staff and customers

When selecting a restaurant reservation system, prioritizing ease of use is crucial for both your staff and customers. An intuitive system that requires minimal training allows your staff to quickly adapt and utilize the software effectively, reducing the likelihood of errors or confusion during the booking process. This efficiency translates to a smoother operation and enhanced customer service.

For customers, a seamless booking experience is essential. The reservation system should provide clear instructions and require minimal clicks to complete a booking. A complicated or confusing process can deter potential diners from making a reservation, leading to lost business. Conduct thorough testing of the system to identify and address any potential issues or glitches that may hinder the user experience.

The importance of user testing

User testing is a critical step in evaluating the ease of use of a reservation system. Engage a diverse group of individuals, including staff members and potential customers, to test the system and provide feedback. This process can help identify areas for improvement and ensure that the system is intuitive and user-friendly for all users.

Customization options to match your brand

Your restaurant’s reservation system should seamlessly integrate with your brand identity. Look for a system that allows you to customize the booking interface to align with your restaurant’s unique style and atmosphere. This customization should include the ability to incorporate your logo, color scheme, and imagery, creating a cohesive and professional look.

A branded booking experience reinforces your restaurant’s identity and creates a memorable impression on customers. It also helps build trust and credibility, as a well-designed and customized interface conveys attention to detail and a commitment to providing a high-quality dining experience.

The psychology of branding in the booking process

Studies have shown that consistent branding across all touchpoints, including the reservation system, can increase customer loyalty and trust. A survey by Lucidpress found that consistent presentation of a brand can increase revenue by 33%. By customizing your reservation system to match your brand, you create a psychological connection with your customers, reinforcing their positive associations with your restaurant.

Mobile responsiveness and accessibility

In today’s digital age, a significant portion of customers prefer to make reservations using their smartphones or tablets. Choosing a reservation system that is fully responsive and optimized for mobile devices is essential to cater to this growing trend. Ensure that the booking process is easily navigable on smaller screens and that all features and functionalities are accessible on mobile devices.

Testing the mobile booking experience is crucial to ensure that it is user-friendly and visually appealing. A poor mobile experience can discourage customers from completing their reservations, leading to missed opportunities for your restaurant.

The rise of mobile bookings in the restaurant industry

According to a study by OpenTable, mobile bookings accounted for 60% of all online reservations in 2019. This trend is expected to continue growing as more consumers rely on their mobile devices for everyday tasks, including making restaurant reservations. By prioritizing mobile responsiveness, your restaurant can stay ahead of the curve and meet the evolving needs of your customers.

Understanding Reservation Types and Policies

Owners/Managers Handle Reservations at Most:

71.7% of restaurants have the owner/manager primarily responsible for managing reservations and table assignments

Standard Restaurant Reservations

Standard reservations are the most common type of reservation in restaurants. These are typical table reservations for a specific date, time, and party size. When a guest makes a standard reservation, they are essentially booking a table for their desired dining time and party size.

One-Fifth of Restaurants Take Credit Cards for Reservations:

21.3% of restaurants take a credit card number as part of the reservation

Many restaurants require a deposit or credit card guarantee to hold the table, especially during peak hours or for high-demand tables. This policy helps prevent no-shows and last-minute cancellations, which can be costly for restaurants. Cancellation policies for standard reservations vary by restaurant and may include penalties for late cancellations or no-shows. For instance, Tock, a popular reservation platform, offers features to manage no-shows and late cancellations effectively.

Some Reservations End in No-Shows:

10.7% of reservations are "no-shows" on average.

Best Practices for Managing Standard Reservations

To effectively manage standard reservations, restaurants should:

  1. Set clear policies for deposits, cancellations, and no-shows

  2. Communicate these policies to guests at the time of booking

  3. Use a reservation system that allows for easy management of reservations, including modifying or canceling reservations

  4. Monitor reservation trends and adjust table availability accordingly

How Restaurants Handle Late Arrivals and No-Shows?

-Some restaurants wait an average of 28 minutes before classifying a reservation as a no-show.

-45.4% of restaurants call customers within 48 hours to confirm reservations45.4% of restaurants call customers within 48 hours to confirm reservations

High-Top Reservations

High-top reservations are reservations for tall tables or bar seating, often with a more casual atmosphere compared to standard dining tables. These reservations may have different menu options or service styles, depending on the restaurant’s layout and concept.

The availability and policies for high-top reservations may vary depending on the restaurant’s layout and concept. Some restaurants may not offer high-top reservations at all, while others may have a separate section of their reservation system dedicated to high-top tables.

Considerations for High-Top Reservations

When deciding whether to offer high-top reservations, restaurants should consider:

  1. The overall atmosphere and concept of the restaurant

  2. The demand for casual dining options among their target audience

  3. The availability of high-top tables or bar seating in their layout

  4. The potential impact on service style and menu options for high-top reservations

Group Reservations and Private Dining

Group reservations and private dining accommodations are essential for larger parties or private events, such as birthdays, anniversaries, or corporate gatherings. These reservations often require a separate booking process or direct contact with the restaurant’s event coordinator.

Most Restaurants Let Hosts Handle Reservations:

56.6% of restaurants allow hosts/hostesses to take reservations.

Group reservations and private dining events often involve set menus, minimum spending requirements, or room rental fees. These policies help restaurants plan for larger parties and ensure that they can provide the necessary staff, space, and resources to accommodate the group. For example, Tock’s platform allows for the management of group reservations and private dining events with features like customizable floor plans and powerful waitlists.

Managing Group Reservations and Private Dining Events

To successfully manage group reservations and private dining events, restaurants should:

  1. Have a dedicated event coordinator or team to handle inquiries and bookings

  2. Develop clear policies for set menus, minimum spending, and room rental fees

  3. Communicate these policies to guests during the booking process

  4. Use a reservation system that allows for easy management of group reservations and private dining events

The Impact of Reservation Types and Policies on Restaurant Operations

Understanding and effectively managing different reservation types and policies is crucial for restaurant operations. By setting clear policies and using a robust reservation system, restaurants can:

  1. Reduce no-shows and last-minute cancellations

  2. Optimize table turnover and revenue

  3. Provide a better guest experience by accommodating different dining preferences and party sizes

  4. Streamline the booking process for both guests and staff

To further explore the impact of reservation types and policies on restaurant operations, consider reading:

“The Restaurant Manager’s Handbook: How to Set Up, Operate, and Manage a Financially Successful Food Service Operation” by Douglas R. Brown

“Restaurant Success by the Numbers: A Money-Guy’s Guide to Opening the Next New Hot Spot” by Roger Fields

These books provide in-depth insights into the operational aspects of running a successful restaurant, including managing reservations and setting effective policies.

Make an Informed Decision for Your Restaurant’s Success

Choosing the right reservation system in 2024 is crucial for your restaurant’s success. Key features like online booking, table management, and customer relationship tools streamline operations and enhance the dining experience. When evaluating options, consider ease of use, customization, and mobile responsiveness.

Integrating your reservation system with other tools like your POS and marketing platforms can further optimize your restaurant’s performance. Understanding different reservation types and policies ensures you’re prepared to accommodate various customer needs.

By implementing a reservation system, you’ll increase efficiency, improve customer satisfaction, and gain valuable insights for data-driven decisions. Take the time to research and compare options that align with your restaurant’s unique requirements and goals.

Which reservation system features are most important for your restaurant’s success? Consider your specific needs and prioritize accordingly as you begin your search for the perfect solution.

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