The Ultimate Guide To Restaurant Reservation System In 2024

How fast are restaurant reservations changing?  The demands of today’s world — busy bookings, bustling reservations — invite restaurateurs to make a significant leap: switch to digital, and set the table for restaurant reservation system.

Read on below for the latest on how reservation software is currently helping restaurants manage guest intake.

Your Restaurant Uses Reservations to Handle Guest Management

For decades, restaurants have used reservations to manage guests. Since their boom in the mid-nineteenth century, top spots in both Paris and London quickly became mainstream places to eat out. Now, getting inside the restaurant was at the heart of a restaurant’s everyday business.

Not until the introduction of telephones in the early 1910s did restaurant booking transform into the popular system we know today: the use of phone-ins and the old-fashioned notebook to take guest details, booking tables via a paper-based system.

Some already consider this old school. But many contemporary restaurants still use a paper-based system simply because they trust it. Restaurants use a paper-based reservation system to:

  • Plan staff management: Reservations give hosts a good idea of how many team members will be needed on a given night.
  • Prevent waiting: Reservations do away with unpredictable wait times, meaning guests come in at arranged times to be seated.
  • Promote returns: As a bonus, reservations aim to build relationships with returning customers. A good dining-out experience means a customer will likely make a follow-up reservation. Restaurants use reservations in the hope that they will guarantee guests.

But this is not always the case. Ask any reservation-based restaurant about the cost of no-shows and you’re bound to hear all about it. Particularly since the 1980s, no-shows have proved to be a massive headache for restaurants worldwide, losing both time and money due to guests changing their minds at the last moment.


Figure 1. Malaga Restaurant by Nick Kenrick via Flickr (creative commons 2.0)

What Is Restaurant Reservation System?

Since the 2000s, restaurant reservation systems have developed to meet the demands of today’s world. A software solution offers restaurateurs everything they need to face a more demanding client base — a handy tool that keeps the guestlist moving. Restaurant reservation software allows restaurateurs to make and manage reservations online, then let guests reserve tables at their convenience.

In 2021, governmental requirements in some countries made it mandatory for restaurants to use reservation systems to both comply with COVID restrictions and control the in-flow of guests. With COVID restrictions in place, restaurants heavily rely on reservations to manage guest loads and distribute socially distanced tables.

For popular restaurants working in unison with governmental practices reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s now essential that restaurants provide the seamless service guests now expect — an online method that allows restaurants to focus on what they do best: serve top-quality food.

Today there are many software options reservation-based restaurants can choose from. This article covers all you need to know about restaurant reservation system in 2024. We provide a quick-and-easy guide on how your restaurant could benefit from this new way of managing tables

Why Choose Restaurant Reservation System?

First, think about your current paper-based system. As an integral part of a restaurant’s indoor operations, the traditional pen-and-paper system may seem efficient. But let’s take a second look at how a paper-based model can be inefficient, and consider why you may need to bin the books.

Limited View

An ongoing problem with the paper agenda is simply this: it’s one book. It’s your single record of the day’s bookings — and it’s not easy to share. Famous NYC restaurateur Danny Meyer has said about the reservation book: “I was tired of this recurring problem we had in the restaurant, where people would always be yelling up and down the stairs, saying, ‘Who’s got the reservation book?’” One book; many problems.

Messy Table Management

Updating a reservation? With the paper guestlist, your staff members are always erasing, striking out details, or scribbling on the page. It’s not the worst thing in the world — but it does add clutter and can lead to confusion or worse: lost bookings.

Operational Hours Only

If a prospective diner wants to book, then staff have to be there to answer the phone, listen to a voicemail, read an email, or respond to a social media message. They must make sure the booking makes its way into the agenda, then confirm (or reject) the booking, all the while corresponding with the customer, a little back and forth to find an available time and table — all in all, an effort.

During peak periods (when callers are on hold), restaurant booking can be tiresome on both sides of the table.

No Chance to Reduce No-shows

With a paper book at hand, reducing no-shows is a pain. Your staff must call or email guests, reminding them of their upcoming restaurant booking. Otherwise, you hope for the best. But there is a substantial risk that your guests no-show, and consider how that may affect your bottom line.

It’s Easier to Use Restaurant Reservation Software

Switching to digital is all about making things easier. Adopting software to manage restaurant reservations can resolve the above issues. Here’s how.

  1. Digital Reservation Book

With restaurant reservation software, your entire guest list is available on a digital device like a computer, smartphone, or tablet. Typically, these devices sync online (i.e. ‘in the cloud’), so reservations can be managed online from anywhere. There’s no more passing a book around.

  1. Table Display

Allocating tables is as easy as clicking a button. Reservation software provides a bespoke display of your restaurant’s set-up, allowing you to distribute tables according to customer demand, merge tables for large parties, and make the best use of your dining room.

  1. Online Reservations

This offers guests the opportunity to make reservations flexibly, anytime, anywhere. Guests access real-time reservation availability — eliminating the need for you and your staff to answer the phone, emails, and other booking requests.

  1. Real-time Updates

The minute your staff or a guest makes a booking, a restaurant reservation system will update your device display, without all the scribbling, striking out, and erasing.

  1. Guest Communication

Via text messages and reminder emails, an online booking system connects your restaurant to guests instantly. Automated reminders come in extra handy when reducing the chances of no-shows.

If you’re a restaurant operator whose maitre d’ and front-of-the-house staff spends far too much time chasing customers (answering phone calls, sending emails), restaurant reservation software cuts out all the needless hassle.

Customers Have Already Scrapped the Pen-and-Paper

Customers today are living in an instant world, using their phones for everything: plane tickets; google map directions, photography, etc.

This is also true of dining out. Google searches, online reviews, and social media at once allow customers to find (and book) spots to eat. Guests expect to book without having to call someone. A study showed that online presence is serious business: In San Francisco, for instance, researchers found that higher ratings caused a restaurant’s bookings to sell out from 30 to 49 per cent of the evenings it was open for business.

As of Spring 2021, if restaurants are striving to survive in today’s socially distanced environment, then ease of access via digital methods will ensure that their guestlist keeps moving and up-to-date with the current way of doing things.


Figure 2. Guests with iPad by Lordcolus via Flickr (creative commons 2.0)

The Basics: The Price of Restaurant Reservation Software

Many services on the market come with various pricing schemes from low to high. Here are a few things to look out for when considering overall costs.

Subscription Plans 

Most restaurant reservation system options demand monthly plans, requiring restaurateurs to invest in a base-level cost. Whether your restaurant attracts 50 to 100 reservations per month, a subscription fee doesn’t change. But they can be costly — ranging from £143—£649 a month. Depending on the actual size of your restaurant, subscription plans will increase, varying from standard plans to premium.


If you choose to integrate a basic restaurant reservation system, providers will charge less. But for extra features like Point of Sale (POS) integration, analytics, guest surveys, automated email campaigns, then providers will usually add this all on top of your monthly subscription charge. At times, this can triple overall expenses.

If you decide to use SMS features, then text messaging features will usually cost you an extra fee per message. In addition to upgrades, you can pay more to gain extra features, such as customisable guest messaging.

Per-customer Fees

The primary and most common fee that reservation software companies will charge you: a per-customer booking fee. This is generated through either: 1) their vendor system; or 2) the use of your website (typically costing more when bookings come through the vendor’s website or app — not your restaurant’s website). In practice, this means you will pay for each customer that books.

If your restaurant goes through a high number of reservations, this is a serious consideration. For example, a popular restaurant in the city with a transactional cost of £1.00 per customer booked will book a table for four, costing £4.00. Book 2,000 guests a month, and this comes to £2,000. So when looking for an appropriate system, it will be best to count and estimate how many reservations you process in a month. This will stabilise transactional costs.


Many service providers will require you to purchase additional hardware. Although, this is not always the case. Consider that you may have to purchase some proprietary hardware or even a new computer or tablet to use in the restaurant. Look for systems that offer a mobile application for your smartphone, as this will be an easy point of access. If you already have a smartphone, then it costs nothing.

Setup Fees

There may be additional setup fees included with your plan. This could be a one-time initiation fee, customisation fee, or any other cost related to the start-up of using a software package.

If you’re lucky, you may be able to negotiate this down and/or get the vendor to provide something free along with the service (such as a free piece of hardware like an iPad, etc.).

Overall, though costs can add up, there are significant benefits in using a restaurant booking system. You must keep the above in mind, particularly paying attention to which costs may add up over time.

Consider a FREE Restaurant Reservation System

The Carbonara app is the first-ever truly free restaurant reservation system. Unlike the rest, the Carbonara app comes with full features included. These are:

  • Digital Reservation Book. Permits you to keep control of reservations. Simple and easy to use.
  • Table Management.  Lets you keep an eye on tables in real-time during all working hours.
  • Wait Timers. Simplifies your day-to-day business, offering accurate waiting times for guests when they can expect to be seated.
  • Daily Statistics. Offers you a daily report, showing guest levels and average times. No calculators necessary; helping you make plans for your restaurant’s future.
  • User-Friendly Interface. Presents an intuitive interface that is easy to navigate. The Carbonara app is for restaurants — not tech-wizards.
  • Free SMS Notifications. Allows you to easily notify customers, with a fully customisable template. The Carbonara app absorbs sending costs. They’re free.
  • Device Sync. Gives you a portable restaurant booking app: anyone with a smartphone is a user.
  • Free Online Booking. Offers a free service: There is no cost per customer booked, and there never will be.

The Carbonara App is entirely free which is unorthodox for today’s industry. But it’s meaningful: we’re doing this to make a difference in the market. In an ever-shifting world of dining out, the Carbonara app suits today’s hospitality sector, helping deliver restaurants from the daily hustle and bustle of busy booking schedules.


Figure 3. Carbonara – All in one seating app for restaurants

In 2024, restaurants will likely face a substantial increase in online reservations. With this in mind, using a restaurant booking app is becoming increasingly important — especially when it comes at no cost whatsoever.

Curious to try it out? Download the Carbonara app, free from any cost.

You Can Operate Your Restaurant with the Carbonara App’s COVID-19 Features 

As of early April 2021, most restaurants are closed due to COVID-19 measures. But restaurants hope to re-open soon, abiding by local regulations to prevent the spread of the virus.

Here is our COVID-19 article which gives you the latest information about bookings and covid regulations.

Make sure to also check out: