Online bookings are a massive time-saver for both restaurants and their customers. A booking page never closes; so now customers can make reservations instantly at any time, a far better option than waiting for someone to respond and confirm their booking.
Consumers now expect to book tables online at their leisure. Take a hint from other industries: Since March 2020 one virtual booking service has witnessed a 535 percent rise in booking numbers. Customer convenience combined with time efficiency makes online booking an attractive option for customers.
This is handy for restaurateurs who want to handle their bookings with ease. Make sure you’re not left behind with these seven easy steps.
Figure 1. Weekend Computer by Alan Levine via Flickr
1 — Design a User-Friendly Interface
Imagine you’re the customer. You want to make a reservation with a restaurant and consult the web to find the appropriate page — only to find that the restaurant’s webpage looks like a bad school project, cluttered with poor colour choices, grey text on white backgrounds. What are the chances you’re going to exit this page as soon as you find it?
Ideally your restaurant’s online booking page needs to be the polar opposite of this example: simple. In other words, it needs to be as intuitive as possible.
Though this requires technical practice, it also requires good sense. Don’t bombard the customer with pop-ups. Poor use of colour will only create an eyesore. Instead, use high contrast colours with a straight-to-the-point interface. Navigational buttons should be the first thing a user sees.
One business magazine has said that in today’s world your website forms the customer’s first impression of your business. No pressure — but it’s obvious that good design is an important factor to immediately account for. Otherwise, a poorly designed booking page can deter new customers, resulting in abandoned bookings.
2 — Provide Help to Create Restaurant Reservations Online
Once you have a sleek interface, you’ll probably think that this is enough for new customers.
Wrong. Providing online help creates a trust-relationship between your restaurant and customer. If you take care of customer experience, you will retain your bookings.
Consider that many customers book months in advance. As time goes on, they may want to change or adjust their dates. Without help to deal with the nuances of an individual’s booking, this leads to customer frustration very quickly. As such, customers may reverse their decision and cancel bookings.
In addition, provide a feedback system. Users can then report problems or provide criticism, allowing you to continually improve your online booking service. Acknowledging this feedback, you can implement new features and establish an easier process for customers.
So provide as much help as possible. “How to” screens are essential. Even if you have tech-savvy users, it’s best to guide the customer through online processes to promise a hassle-free experience.
3 — Partner With Social Media Bookings
Your restaurant needs to have a social media presence. New customers should have some way of accessing your site via other apps, such as Instagram.
There are several ways to do this, from establishing your own account to sharing content with partners. Being active on social media has its benefits: you can post advertisements that link back to your booking page or encourage returning customers to share their own experiences via online posts. The latter is a self-generating advertising campaign — without the financial drawbacks.
Make sure users can easily navigate between a social media post and your restaurant’s booking page. As long as it is quick and simple for users to interact with your restaurant via social media, then your restaurant should be good to go.
Figure 2. Juno by Lou Stejskal via Flickr
4 — Keep Booking Security Frictionless
We live in a security-conscious age. Baffling stories of cybersecurity attacks and password leaks show up on the news regularly. This is why your restaurant must make sure its online security is watertight.
To build a successful booking portal, end users must feel their information is secure. Simply ensure the customer’s safety with the use of familiar designs (e.g. “connection secure” padlock), maintaining transparency with links to your restaurant’s data protection statement.
Cybersecurity is everybody’s business. So advance your site’s safety with appropriate testing; doing so will make clear signals to users that their information is in safe hands. These are legal requirements, but should also be on full display for the sake of trustworthiness.
5 — Seal Reservations with Engaging Content
Question: Why is the story of two teenagers setting up a courier service in a cellar and transforming it into one of the world’s leading delivery companies over time such a potent and well-known story? The origin story of United Parcel Service (UPS) is without a doubt its greatest advertisement — and restaurants all over the world will never stand out unless they’re telling a good story to customers.
Your website provides a great opportunity to share your restaurant’s personal tale. A compelling story can be used to your benefit as customers want to know why you stand out from the rest.
For instance, a Google analytics survey found that 70 percent of customers completed bookings after carrying out research online. The sample is clear. A good story sticks to our minds, and coming across one on the web will grant customers an adequate reason to dine out with you.
If you’re stuck for ideas, Harvard Business Review provides a free guide to sharpen your restaurant’s storytelling skills — an essential technique in 2021.
Figure 3. Rose Wall by Joe Ross via Flickr
6 — Save Booking Extras for After Confirmation
Keep special offers to the last. If making an online booking is the main course, then special offers are the dessert.
The booking itself should be to the point, a fast process with no price-related distractions. This gives you extra space to display your restaurant reservation policy, which you can tweak to sound inviting. After all, you don’t want to deter incoming customers with needless technicalities.
A reservation policy is an easy way to inform customers what they’re in for. Plus it drastically reduces the cost of no-shows, an option every restaurant must consider.
7 — Restaurant Reservations Online with a Reservation App
Ultimately, your restaurant wants to show customers how you value their time. You want to make sure they’re happy, and in today’s instant age, customers want to make stress-free bookings to save as much time as possible.
Carbonara App is a simple, colourful, and easy-to-use reservation system that travels gracefully in your pocket. This means anyone with a smartphone — including your restaurant’s team — can check reservations and respond to customer queries anywhere.