Think you don’t need online bookings? You’re wrong.

Perhaps a blunt title for this blog, but every bit of data we see shows us that without online bookings you will be losing money. We’ve already gone into some of the reasons why doing it via booking contact form sucks, but this is more about those who think you don’t need online bookings at all.

If you’re in the mindset that you don’t need online bookings because your customers are used to the way you do it – be it just turning up and hoping for a table or some scrappy notebook that takes telephone orders then you’re not only making life harder for yourselves, but you are starting the entire customer experience on a negative.

We surveyed over a thousand people who have made a booking on BookingNinja in the last 3 months and a whopping 42% said they would not have visited the venue had there not been an option to book online.

Even those who are okay to turn up and see if they can get a table have their limits and if you are lucky enough to be busy a large percentage of the time you’ll find yourself hit a point where guests stop attempting to come as they assume you are always busy, and then, in turn, your covers start to drop and finally you’re sitting there wondering where all your customers are.

This isn’t just a hypothetical – it’s the exact reason BookingNinja was created. Back in 2016 we created a successful board game cafe which was often packed out to the brim – we’d have customers come in and try to get a table and we’d have to turn them away, naively assuming they will try again at another point… and a lot of them did maybe once or twice, but after turning the same customer away twice it’s a sure-fire thing that they will likely not bother again, assuming the venue is too busy all the time.

Before we launched bookings for the cafe we started to see this slow, but clear slide into fewer and fewer guests. We were lucky enough to have an active community on Facebook so we spoke to people and asked them point-blank – what’s up. The overwhelming response was that the lack of online booking was putting people off.

If it wasn’t for being able to communicate directly and easily with people interested in our cafe we’d have never known what the root issue was – people are unlikely to get in touch to say the reasons they’ve not gone. It’s this listening only to the customers who have arrived that drives the mindset that perhaps they don’t need online bookings but the customers you are missing out on are so much harder to quantify.

We’re lucky, we’ve only ever had 2 customers that stopped taking online bookings after setting it up, and one of them came back to us within 2 months and gave us insights into what happened. Their initial bookings dropped right away with users not moving to phone bookings, then they saw an “around 20%” drop in their customer base over the next month.

Of course, a booking platform telling you you should do online bookings is about as obvious a sales pitch as possible, but we truly believe and to be direct, we truly know that not having online bookings hurts your bottom line.