It's nearly that time of year again when we start to book festive functions. While customers look forward to their work parties at their favourite eateries, the Christmas period can be very stressful for restaurateurs. Managing time slots and planning menus, dealing with multiple bookings and all the time trying to make profit can seriously take the shine of what should be a pleasant few weeks.
In this short blog, we'll look at some of those pinch points and suggest ways to make December and January's bookings fizz.
One sure way to encourage errors such as double bookings or erroneous orders is to rely on mounds of paperwork. By that, we mean spiral-bound notebooks, paper diaries, post-it notes, disparate spreadsheets and everything in between.
Not only does such media not “connect” with each other, pages can go missing, sheets deleted and as is often the case go missing altogether, leaving the restaurant owner or manager no choice but to guess at their content and make amends on the fly. The result? A bumpy customer journey, stressed staff and unhappy diners.
Before the silly season really kicks off with a bang (and the type of bang you don't want), map out your current processes to get a clear idea of whether they are fit for purpose, have points of risk or create duplication. Then, work on removing the weak links and doing something different. Try to include controls and checks & balances, to ensure nothing can go wrong.
As a restaurateur, do you dread the extra workload associated with chasing pre-orders and deposits? In a busy environment it is easy to lose track of who has paid what, leading to hours or days lost trawling through account records. Not only is that a waste of your precious time, there is a serious risk of profit reduction due to missed payments or no-shows.
A very robust method is needed to ensure tables are secured by means of deposits or full payments, with timely reminders via established communication channels when customers fail to cough up their cash on time. As we all know, tables are your stock in trade so it is essential that bookings translate into payments or are released to enable them to be re-taken by paying guests.
With favouritetable, party menus pre-ordering can be set to include a deposit (per guest or per booking) or credit card details to secure the deposit. This is a great way to reduce instances of no-shows and late cancellations, based on the booking’s terms & condition that you define.
A restaurant is only as good as its food and in the ultra competitive world of gastronomy fixed festive menus need to reflect customers' contemporary desires, budgets, habits and practical needs if the business is to beat its competitors.
The favouritetable restaurant management system contains a great piece of functionality which allows menus to be created well ahead of time, with “rules” for party booking size, selected dates or date range, specific times or time range. You can therefore create a range of party menus to suit different demands, all of which can be booked online andsecured with a deposit or full payment.
“Hello, it's John, the guy with the group booking on December 15th at 8.30pm. I know I called you a few times yesterday and the day before and four times last week about our menu choices, but Miriam now doesn't want the sorbet and would like the melon instead. Oh, and Brian can't come but Cindy is bringing her friend Alfie who....can you just...?”
Does that sound familiar? The lead booker is rightly concerned about their event running smoothly and will not hesitate to call you at every opportunity with amendments and questions. That's great, because we all love talking with our customers, right? Of course. However, multiply John by the amount of group or party bookings in your restaurant and you're going to spend an awfully long time on the phone, right at a time when you really would like to be doing other things.
But here's the thing. Consumers are used to a degree of self-service in the new millennium, from choosing dentist appointments online through to booking airline tickets and selecting their seats from a map of the aircraft cabin via the airline's website. This gives them the time to peruse, deliberate, take time out to think – all in a stress-free environment where they don't have to apeak to anyone. Better still, there's no ambiguity as their choices are later confirmed by email. Wouldn't it be great if our lead booker could do something similar? Well, they can.
With favouritetable, the lead booker receives a link with an easy to complete pre-ordering form, sends this link to the rest of the party who fill in their own order. Isn't that neat? We do away with endless emails and calls with guests when managing pre-orders for party bookings, leaving you to, well, do whatever you want to do.
There's nothing more frustrating than a firm (and paid-for) group booking which is coming perilously close to its date yet has incomplete menu choices. In such circumstances there is a chain reaction which includes everything from inventory problems through to the chef showering the front of house staff with some choice words. Clearly, then, it is vital to know what the booking comprises by a certain date, and to ensure the lead booker complies.
Thankfully, favouritetable has the perfect solution. For each party booking, you can set a ‘submission date’ for the order to be completed with all guests’ menu item choices. The system will automatically send a reminder email to the guest at regular intervals until the order has been completed in full.
As we have already intimated, chefs don't like to work in the dark – they need to have a clear view of the road ahead, so they can plan everything from ingredients ordering through to brigade staffing. A chef who doesn't know what's coming up is a recipe for more choice words, inter-team friction, the cultivation of a blame culture and no clear lines of responsibility when you need them most.
favouritetable eliminates the “I didn't know about it” reasoning by giving the chef immediate and on-demand access to pre-order reports. These nifty downloads can be run to reflect any time period in the future, so there really is no excuse for claims of ignorance.
With the favouritetable reports builder set up on a laptop, desktop pc, tablet or smartphone, the kitchen team can have a very clear view of the bookings to come. For those who don't have access to such technology in the heat of the kitchen, the reports can be printed and hung on a clipboard daily or weekly for easy viewing (but honestly, we would much rather you didn't print them – see our point about paperwork, above).
The result? Your kitchen brigade manages supplier orders more efficiently, improves mise en place requirements on busy party days and reduces wastage due to poor inventory forecasting.
Let's assume you have eradicated the endless phone calls from “John” and created a beautiful customer journey with no pinch points. Great! But on the party's big day, there is a tendency for the group to forget where they have agreed to sit (especially after a few too many Proseccos in the bar beforehand), causing not only confusion but a waste of your staff's valuable time. A group which takes an age to seat itself tends to require extra waiting staff to marshall it, right at a time when other diners are being very demanding.
It needn't be that way, however, because favouritetable creates place cards for each guest, with their names and their menu selection clearly visible. Placed on the table, they provide a nice personal touch to be remembered when guests are reviewing your restaurant on sites like TripAdvisor. Plus, of course, they serve to reduce wasted time and increase efficiency.
Christmas comes but once a year, which is both a blessing and a curse for restaurants. Managed well, its a lucrative time which creates a high level of diner advocacy leading to an enlarged future customer base. Restaurateurs up to their eyes in ambiguous paperwork or with clumsy processes, however, are likely to view the coming period with a sense of foreboding. With the right tools in place, it needn't be that way.
favouritetable is the leading provider of easy to install, easy to use restaurant management software. For over a decade, favouritetable has provided world-class and commission-free systems to enable restaurants, pubs, bars and other businesses to make their festive party bookings more efficient, profitable and enjoyable.
For a demonstration, call us today on 033 0124 4785 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and see why favouritetable is the best value full-feature restaurant management system on the market.