Around 85% of restaurants in the UK and US take restaurant bookings online.
That shouldn’t be too surprising, considering it’s 2021. Perhaps you’re more surprised by the 15% of people that don’t take any at all, but here’s an even more shocking stat:
Only 38% of the restaurants that take bookings online allow customers to book automatically – that is, using a system that will assign them an available table and book them in on the spot. The other 62% only use contact forms that send the venue an email.
Booking forms are the worst of all worlds for customer satisfaction. Here are three of the biggest reasons why using contact forms for your restaurant is a bad idea for both you and your customers.
#1 – You’re providing a second rate experience for customers
We’re all used to getting things instantly, so why would we wait to confirm a booking at one restaurant when another could tell us straight away if we have a table?
Booking Contact forms are like shooting a message into the void. Your customers have no idea if you’ll reply in a minute, a week, or ever. And until you do respond, they aren’t able to make any different plans for that day. Think of it as a customer rather than a business for a moment: It’s a little inconvenient, right?
When we book a flight, we don’t wait for someone at the airline to call us back to see if they can fit us on; we just book when we want to fly and have the tickets sent directly to us. When we rent a car, we don’t email a car dealership and hope for the best; we just book a date and time in seconds.
So why should it be any different for a restaurant? Be honest – are you not taking online restaurant bookings because it’s easier for you? Because there’s no way to justify it’s easier for customers.
Many restaurants get stuck on the idea of forcing people to use the phone to book and start to believe that because they take a lot of phone bookings, they don’t need an online system.
The problem with this logic is without an online restaurant booking service, you’ll never be accountable for how many customers you’re missing that DON’T call you.
Especially when a third of your competitors do use online restaurant booking systems that allow people to book instantly.
#2 – Contact forms are neither cheaper, nor easier than automated services
The generally accepted idea behind using a contact form is that it’s supposed to be easier and cheaper than an online restaurant booking app.
The reality though, is that contact forms don’t take any less time to set up than an automated booking system but can take up considerably more time to manage in the longer term, and it only takes a few hours of staff time before they end up costing you significantly more money than an automatic online booking system.
There are many different ways online restaurant booking software like Booking Ninja can handle your business. Sure, you can set up table automation so the software manages the whole system for you, but for many smaller restaurants, that can be overkill.
You can also set up a simple online booking form that takes automated bookings up to a certain booking limit per time slot, or a maximum amount of bookings at once, and then still assign the tables just as you like.
That’s the beauty of an online system, it can be as simple or as in-depth as you want it to be. You have the flexibility to use an online system in various ways; a booking form is just a booking form.
Compare that to having to spend every day going through your emails, replying to people, writing dates down on paper, asking and re-asking for customer’s details, and taking phone calls for people trying to chase, confirm or change bookings.
#3 – Contact Forms significantly increase the likelihood of a no-show
One of the biggest fears that restaurants have about automated online pub and restaurant bookings is no-shows.
The funny thing is, this idea that online bookings dramatically increase no-show bookings stems from the early years of online restaurant bookings when, you guessed it, the contact form was king.
If you’re worried about online no-shows, then contact is once again the worst method of taking online bookings for restaurants. No-shows happen more often with contact forms because canceling a table is an extra effort. If a customer is able to easily cancel while still giving you enough time to re-book, chances are they will; providing you don’t make them jump through hoops.
If they’ve already had to wait for you for a day to respond if they can have a booking, can you really be that surprised if they don’t wait another day to see if they can cancel?
A good automated, online restaurant booking system can help you reduce and manage no-shows. There are two big reasons for this.
Firstly, people are more likely to cancel if they’re able to do so via an automated email in seconds.
Secondly, an online restaurant booking system has infinitely more options for managing no-shows and minimizing your risk.
On Booking Ninja, you can email or text customers reminding them of their booking dates, and you can also set time periods customers are able to cancel within, giving you far more control of no-shows.
The more power and flexibility you have, the more you can adjust and react to no-shows. Contact forms give you zero power and flexibility, while also providing the worst possible situation for your business.