Survey Part 1: Why you can’t afford to ignore online bookings

Well we would say that, right? But how do we know that?

Well, one of the reasons we started Booking Ninja was because we run our own busy board game cafe, and wanted to provide a better experience for our customers than what was currently on offer.

So when working out what diners really want from bookings, we did the most genuine thing we could think of: We asked our own customers.


First a quick note on who our 200+ respondents are. It should be noted that due to our location the main “bias” in this survey is that most, but not all, respondents are from the United Kingdom.

We do however survey a wide range of ages: 52% are between 25-34, 16% are under 24 and 32% are over 34.

And these people are active restaurant customers – 81% of those who responded eat out at least once a month, and 33% of them eat out more than three times a month.

Your website matters, OpenTable’s website does not

85% of respondents said that they visited a restaurants website before booking.

That’s probably not too much of a shock, right? However, what might surprise you is how people find your website in the first place. We asked people how they normally find new places to eat:

33% of people used Google and 41% used a review site like Yelp and TripAdvisor, which provide helpful lists of the top restaurants in town. And of course, many people visit based simply on walking past a new place or being told by a friend – the classic methods are still very important.

But only 7% of respondents use a dedicated restaurant search engine like OpenTable. 
This is despite these sites selling themselves to restaurants as being important ways to find new diners.

That’s a very low number, and it shows that paying high monthly fees to be listed on these sites not only means you end up paying for your own customers, it’s also just not a popular way for people to find a new place to eat.

In fact, less than half of our respondents had even heard of the most popular restaurant search engine, OpenTable, while others including “Design My Night” and “Via Michelin” were only recognised by one in every ten respondents. Keep in mind this includes a large section of younger, more internet focused consumers who eat out three times a week!

One other thing to mention here is that 93% of people say they normally use their phone browser to book online, while only a quarter of people say they also use a desktop computer. Does your online booking form work well and look great on mobile?

Online booking is no longer an optional extra

So 63% of people PREFER online booking. This is a stat that’s been growing in the hospitality industry every single year, and it isn’t going to get any smaller!

That doesn’t mean you should ignore the third of your customers that want to book via phone, of course. 

That’s the beauty of having powerful booking software like Booking Ninja. Not only do online bookings give customers that want to use them the option, you can also add phone and email customers into the very same system as they contact you.

So as well as not losing any business, you also consolidate and make all bookings from all avenues easier to view, edit and understand.

It’s also worth noting that if we only include results from those under 34, the people who you will rely on to grow for the future of your business, that 63% rises to 76% – over two thirds of younger people.

Finally, 82% of people are more likely to book a restaurant immediately if you have an online booking form. 

That’s a huge amount of diners who you might be missing out on, and it’s even worse when you consider these are people who are already reading your site and interested in your venue!

In other words, you’ve already done the hard work of getting a customer to find you, why let them slip through your fingers due to a missed phone call or the five minutes it takes to set up a quick form with us?

Stay tuned for more data!

We think these numbers already speak for themselves.

There’s no doubt that if you don’t have an online booking form, or if you can’t offer live booking confirmations, you are actively missing out on a massive customer base, and one that grows every day.

We’re not done with the data yet though. We also asked people to let us know the most helpful and most frustrating things about booking a table and we’ll be covering those in our next blog post!

Thanks for reading!