What is Really Wrong With Online Dining Cancellation Policies

If you’re looking for a better way to help restaurant customers book tables online, consider rethinking where, when, and how you present your restaurant cancellation policy on your website.

Customers want to book with you — but not with any added hassle. We discuss some of the reasons why this is hurting the hospitality industry and consequently, slowing down restaurant customer bookings online.

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Let’s Think About Restaurant Websites

Imagine browsing on the web for the best places to eat near you, sifting through food blogs and news articles to suit your preferences. Finally, after a tiresome search, you find the ideal restaurant and click on their website. Yet when you locate the restaurant’s booking page, a long and comprehensive restaurant policy confronts you, sitting above a restaurant booking form. 

What happens next? Unless you’re desperate to eat out at this restaurant, you’ll probably look again for somewhere else.

Too many restaurant websites are making it difficult for their customers to book. They are anxious to display extensive restaurant cancellation policies — so they place them in inconvenient areas of their websites, making them harder to navigate for customers. 

On the customer’s end, this is off putting. Why? Simply, the customer wants to book a table in the fastest, most stress-free way possible. It’s time we let them.

dining cancellation policy
courtesy of Epic Top 10, Creative Commons 2.0

Why Nobody Reads a Dining Cancellation Policy

If you have ever wondered whether or not new customers are reading your restaurant’s table policy on the web, the quick answer is: no, they aren’t. Long, factual clauses that read like a financial contract are not the sort of reading material customers want to see, read, and digest when actively searching for the ideal places to eat, to have fun, and to have a great night out.

Even if customers are interested in reading restaurant reservation cancellation policies, then they’re probably skipping the key details to quickly make a booking. One scholar from San Jose University has studied how people read these texts: in reality, they’re not reading, but scrolling and skimming “with word-spotting and browsing through the text”, as reported in the Guardian. In other words, customers aren’t interested.

Yet Policies for Restaurants are Necessary

The big problem is being able to collect crucial customer information — names, contact details — without putting them through an arduous and tedious process. Manual data entry, typing in these details themselves, is slow when everything else on the internet is fast, undemanding, and relatively instant.

The challenge is to offer customers a quick way to get through restaurant reservation cancellation policies. Let’s not make restaurant booking policies feel like filling out a governmental form. Customers are looking for a place to eat — not a survey.

A Restaurant Reservation Cancellation Policy Can Be Easy

The good news is that there is a better, easier way to do this. 

Customers want to book tables the fastest way available. They want to waste no time on a confusing, wordy data entry form.

One way to improve this issue is simply staring the hospitality industry in the face: let customers use icons. For example, a web form can provide a dog symbol to speedily indicate a dog-friendly venue.  

Not as facetious as it at first sounds, the advantages of using icons in a restaurant web form are multiple. 

First, icons have an universal value; language barriers no longer constrain restaurants and their online booking forms. Let’s say, for instance, that a customer unfamiliar with the restaurant’s business language wishes to eat out there. They try to book online. As such, with icons in place, they no longer have to navigate a booking form with unrecognisable table policies.

Second, icons and symbols have mass usage. Oxford University Press has reported that although digital icons have been around since the late 1990s, since 2015 their use has accelerated massively. (This was also the same year that the Oxford English Dictionary selected a web icon as their word of the year.)

Like so, icons quicken the table booking process. They transcend the limitations of language. Plus, it makes a boring process fun, and who doesn’t want that?

restaurant reservation cancellation policies
courtesy of Abi Begum, Creative Commons 2.0

Streamline Online Bookings With Carbonara App

Long online restaurant reservation cancellation policies and booking forms are not suited to today’s instant-access digital environment. Customers are now accustomed to getting the services they want on the internet quickly, speedily, and efficiently.

Long restaurant reservation cancellation policies may have good intentions at heart — i.e., to protect restaurants and their customers from losing money — but they are having the opposite effect. If customers aren’t reading these policies properly, then they are at risk of contravening a policy’s guidelines — for example, cancelling within two hours of their booking. As such, the restaurant loses out on a booking, and the customer pays a late cancellation fee.

Long policies only promote customer confusion. A short, sweet, and simple restaurant booking policy is far easier on the eyes, and far better from a business standpoint. 

To alleviate this issue, try making policies for restaurants expedient for customers. For instance, use bullet points to outline the essentials. Restaurants can also easily provide a neat hyperlink to redirect those customers who wish to digest policy statements elsewhere.

This way, restaurants both protect themselves legally and make it convenient for customers to book online.

For a quick guide on drawing up the ideal restaurant reservation cancellation policy, check out our article “How Long to Hold a Table for a Reservation No-Show”.

In addition, restaurants need to think about the efficacy of cancellation policies during big days in the year on everybody’s calendar — Easter, Halloween, Christmas. These are holidays when an intense influx of customers will want to book online. Are all these customers going to have the patience to drink in and digest long cancellation policies? Probably not — and this provides a key opportunity for competitor websites to step in.

Did you know Carbonara App provides restaurants with an easily navigable online booking platform to streamline restaurant reservations? This operates on a four-step process that is intuitive, user-friendly, and more importantly, absolutely free. Learn more about fast, free, and easy online restaurant reservations.

Restaurants Don’t Have to Worry About Awkward Website Management

In the end there is an added bonus to all this: restaurants no longer have to worry about cumbersome website management. Using tools like WordPress is fine — but it is far easier to let Carbonara App automate all this for you. This lifts a great deal of the digital weight from restaurant shoulders.

Carbonara App provides a key advantage for smartphone users too. Sometimes websites aren’t adjusted for multi-platform users. On the other hand, Carbonara App is tailored for web access from all smart devices — including good old desktops