Hi, this is the blog for simpleERB. We mostly blog about restaurant reservations and restaurant “customer relationship management” but we like to do foodie stuff as well.

simpleERB solves lots of problems for restaurateurs, probably more than you imagined! Like “How to get a better price for your restaurant when you sell it.”

You can see a collection of them here.

Plus, get your free Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Marketing here, an actionable 93-page guide to make you a restaurant marketing master.

Or go straight to our sign up page for a free trial here

(No credit card required.)

Enjoy! And may all your customers be nice ones.

 

The simpleERB Team.



How simpleERB can help set you up for a successful Valentine’s service this year.

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, is your restaurant already taking bookings and prepared to capitalise on what could be the busiest night after the festive silly season?

simpleERB can help you make the most of this profitable day by offering:

  • a dedicated one off floor plan to maximise capacity on the day, (the most “twos”),
  • a  forecast of your covers for this Valentine’s Day compared with your historical figures in previous years so that you can plan staffing, purchasing and last minute marketing
  • a database of customers to market to in a GDPR compliant way


Dedicated Floor plan

Rather than have your regular floor setup, you may want to optimise on tables of two’s and split up your normal larger tables for either just the one night or for a few days over the Valentine’s weekend.

What you do is create a new area called for example, ‘Restaurant Valentines’ with the layout you require. Then in advanced settings use the closed area function to close out your usual restaurant area/s for these dates. In addition to that, make sure that the Valentines area was closed from now until the dates required in February and then again after these dates until a date much further in the future.

If you already have advance bookings on these Valentine’s booking dates, you will need to move the bookings onto tables in this layout in order for you to be able to close off the area.

 

 

You could keep this area in your layouts to be used again or diarise a reminder to delete the area once the event has passed.

You are now able to take bookings without having to worry about rearranging tables once bookings have been made.

 

Forward Booking Reports

The forward booking report is simple but we believe it is very useful for planning ahead and forecasting.

It allows you to compare your forward bookings for a period on a given date, usually “today”,  with your forward bookings for the same period last year, or in previous years.

For example, you are planning on having a rose for every couple on the table. So you need to estimate how many you will need.

You can create a report which shows you how many covers you have booked as of today, for 14 Feb 2019 compared to the forward bookings you had on this date last year.

So if you find that you only have 85% of last years bookings, then you now know that you probably need to do some extra marketing, create special offers in simpleERBand email them to your customer base or advertise on Facebook, Instagram.

If however, you see that you are 25% up in bookings, then you will need to recruit more staff than you had rostered last year and certainly buy more roses!

You can access the report at; https://app.simpleerb.com/restaurant/reports/forwardbookings.aspx

 

 

Tailor your marketing campaigns to your customer base 

If you find you need to boost your bookings, you can download your simpleERB customer list to create marketing campaigns. You can also download it specifically for customers who made bookings last Valentine’s Day.

To download your customer database, go to reports, expand the list of reports and choose customer export.

You can filter the list using various different parameters for example, you may wish to only download a list of customers who dined on Valentine’s or you may want a list of customers you have tagged with a particular quick info label.

After clicking search, you will have the option to export the list as a .xls file.

 

 

Once you have the report, you can then use this to upload to a mail marketing website.

See the link below to a helpful article on how to use your user list and us Facebook Ads with Mailchimp.

http://help.simpleerb.com/advanced-features/download-your-user-list-and-use-facebook-ads-with-mailchimp

Already advertising your Valentine’s availability on Facebook?

Don’t forget you can further target your Valentine’s dining advertising to Facebook users in your area who are similar to your customers. Use Facebook’s lookalike audience feature to do this.

Make sure you narrow your targeting to people who are in a relationship though!



James Bond dines – from Casino Royale

Casino Royale book cover

“But it was only an infinitesimal clink of foils and as
the bowing maitre d’hotel led them through the crowded
room, it was forgotten as Bond in her wake watched the
heads of the diners turn to look at her.
The fashionable part of the restaurant was beside the
wide crescent of window built out like the broad stern of
a ship over the hotel gardens, but Bond had chosen a
table in one of the mirrored alcoves at the back of the
great room. These had survived from Edwardian days
and they were secluded and gay in white and gilt, with
the red silk-shaded table and wall lights of the late
Empire.

 

As they deciphered the maze of purple ink which
covered the double folio menu, Bond beckoned to the
sommelier. He turned to his companion.

‘Have you decided?’

‘I would love a glass of vodka,’ she said simply, and
went back to her study of the menu.

‘A small carafe of vodka, very cold,’ ordered Bond.
He said to her abruptly: ‘I can’t drink the health of your
new frock without knowing your Christian name.’

‘Vesper, ‘ she said. ‘Vesper Lynd. ‘ ,.

Bond gave her a look of inquiry.

‘It’s rather a bore always having to explain but I was
born in the evening, on a very stormy evening according
to my parents. Apparently they wanted to remember it.’
She smiled. ‘Some people like it, others don’t. I’m just
used to it.’

‘I think it’s a fine name,’ said Bond. An idea struck
him. ‘Can I borrow it?  He explained about the special
Martini he had invented and his search for a name for it.
‘The Vesper,’ he said. ‘It sounds perfect and it’s very
appropriate to the violet hour when my cocktail will
now be drunk all over the world. Can I have it? ‘

‘So long as I can try one first she promised.. ‘It
sounds a drink to be proud of.’

‘We’ll have one together when all this is finished,’
said Bond. ‘Win or lose. And now have you decided
what you would like to have for dinner? Please be ex-
pensive, ‘ he, added as he sensed her hesitation, ‘or you’ll
let down that beautiful frock.’ .’-,

‘I’d made two choices,’ she laughed, ‘and either
would have been delicious; but behaving like a
millionaire occasionally is a wonderful treat, and if
you’re sure . . . well, I’d like to start with caviar and
then have a/plain grilled rognon de veau with pommes ‘
souffles. And then I’d like to have fraises des bois with a
lot of cream. Is it very shameless to be so certain and so
expensive? ‘ She smiled at him inquiringly.

‘It’s a virtue, and anyway’ it’s only a good plain wholesome meal.’

He turned to the maitre d’hotel. ‘And
bring plenty of toast.”

‘The trouble always is,’ he explained to Vesper, ‘not
how to get enough caviar, but how to get enough toast
with it.

‘Now,’ he turned back to the menu, ‘I myself will
accompany Mademoiselle with the caviar; but then I
would like a very small tournedos, underdone, with
sauce Bearnaise and a coeur d’artichaut. While
Mademoiselle is enjoying the strawberries, I will have an
avocado pear with a little French dressing. Do you approve?’

The maitre d’hotel bowed.

‘My compliments, mademoiselle and monsieur. Mon-
sieur George . . .’ He turned to the sommelier and
repeated the two dinners for his benefit .

‘Parfait,’ said the sommelier, proffering the leather-
bound wine list.

‘If you agree,’ said Bond, ‘I would prefer to drink
champagne with you tonight. It is a cheerful wine, and it
suits the occasion — I hope,’ he added.

‘Yes, I would like champagne, ‘ she said.

With his finger on the page, Bond turned to the
sommelier: ‘The Taittinger 45?’

‘A fine wine, monsieur,’ said the sommelier. ‘But if
Monsieur will permit,’ he pointed with his pencil, ‘the
Brut Blanc de Blanc 1943 of the same marque is without
equal.’

Bond smiled. ‘So be it,’ he said.

“That is not a well-known brand,’ Bond explained to
his companion, ‘but it is probably the finest champagne
in the world.’ He grinned suddenly at the touch of
pretension in his remark.

‘You must forgive me,’ he said. ‘I take a ridiculous
pleasure in what I eat and drink. It comes partly from
being a bachelor, but mostly from a habit of taking a lot
of trouble over details. It’s very pernickety and old-
maidish really, but then when I’m working I generally
have to eat my meals alone and it makes them more interesting when one takes trouble.’

Vesper smiled at him.

‘I like it,’ she said. ‘I like doing everything fully, get-
ting the most out of everything one does. I think that’s
the way to live. But it sounds rather schoolgirlish when
one says it, she added apologetically.

The little carafe of Vodka had arrived in its bowl of
crushed ice, and Bond filled their glasses.

‘Well, I agree with you anyway,’ he said, ‘and now,
here’s luck for tonight, Vesper.’

‘Yes,’ said the girl quietly, as she held up her small,
glass and looked at him with a curious directness
straight in the eyes. ‘I hope all will go well tonight.

She seemed to Bond to give a quick involuntary shrug
of the shoulders as she spoke, but then she leant impulsively towards him. :

‘I have some news for you from Mathis. He was
longing to tell you himself. It’s, about the bomb: It’s a
fantastic story.’



simpleERB Update – Release 15.5
We have added a few new things to make life easier and fixed a few things, Merry Christmas!
Problem putting walk-in on a table with compromised stay time from bookings page 
You can now select compromised tables from the booking dropdown – compromised tables are listed last and show the reduced stay time.
Forward bookings up or down report 
This report allows you to compare a range of dates against another range of dates, for example: comparing last year’s December bookings against this year’s December bookings.
Allow customer to download/view old invoices 
Previous invoices can be downloaded or printed from the billing history
Require email address on bookings where a deposit is required 
When a booking requires a deposit, the booking cannot be placed without collecting the customer email address for deposit email.
Manager override removes the need for deposit and email.
Change login on https://www.simpleerb.com/ to login page 
We’ve moved login from the previous popup to a stand alone page for boring technical reasons. It does mean you can bookmark https://app.simpleerb.com/login/ though.
Add video to simpleERB website 
We’ve added a new overview video to the simpleERB website. It’s aimed at new customers but it’s worth a watch, you may see something you haven’t discovered!
Add all tables to closed tables 
When closing tables you can now close all tables in the restaurant.
You can use this to “book out slots” without the covers counting to your totals.
Email Queuing
simpleERB now handles email queuing in a better manner – meaning that emails will still send in the event of issues with our email delivery service.
Staff Settings Help Text  
We’ve clarified the help text on staff settings to explain better what PIN numbers do and the consequences of enabling them.


Forward bookings in simpleERB

In our latest release (15.5.1) we have one feature that we would like to talk about in more depth. This is “Forward Bookings”. It is a simple report but we think it could be very useful to you in your planning.

It allows you to compare your forward bookings for a period on a given date, usually “today”, with your forward bookings for the same period last year, or in previous years.

An example would be:

You are doing your planning for Xmas, what extra staff do you need, how many Xmas crackers to buy etc.

You can now create a report which shows you how many covers you have booked as of today, for the period 01 Dec 18 to 31 Dec 18 compared to the forward bookings you had on this date last year for the period 01 Dec 17 to 31 Dec 17.

So if you see that you only have 85% of last years bookings, then you now know that you probably need to do some extra marketing, create special offers in simpleERB and email them to your customer base.

If however, you see that you are 25% up, then you will need to recruit more staff than you had last year and certainly buy more Xmas crackers!

As a next step you can look at your cash position in the previous period and make informed estimates as to what it will be in the coming period based on the data from this report.

You can get the report here if you are a simpleERB user



As a restaurant owner you will be fully aware that running anything less than a tight ship results in chaos, missed potential and loss of profits.

Clearing the tables and setting them for the next guests, the peeled and chopped ingredients ready to hand to the chef, the speed at which the bill can be calculated at the end of the meal: these are all small details which completed hundreds of times each week can add up to hours of inefficiency and loss of profit.

6 problems: Paper diary vs electronic reservations diary - round one

Taking phone bookings

Another regular task you may not have considered: the time it takes for staff to answer phone bookings. Dealing with phone bookings may only take a minute or two, but consider: how many phone bookings a day does your restaurant take? Five? Ten? Twenty?

Let’s say your restaurant has ten phone bookings a day, it takes 90 seconds for the staff to deal with the booking, and the staff are paid on average $/£/€10 an hour.

The cost per day of taking the booking would be $/£/€ 2.50 per day.

If you take the same amount of bookings every day for a month, the cost would be $/£/€ 75 per month and $/£/€800 per year.

Hundreds of dollars loss per month

Of course these costs are assumptions. It may take your staff less time to take phone bookings. You may take fewer phone bookings than this per day.

But then again, it may take your staff longer than 90 seconds to take a phone booking. And you may take even more than 10 phone bookings.

If so, it is possible that phone bookings could be costing your restaurant$/£/€1000s, or even more, in time per year.

Not only is this cost inefficient, it is also hours of time that is taken away from being spent on your customer’s dining experience.

Online restaurant booking

Before phoning a restaurant to book, most diners will check first to see if there’s an online booking option.

Setting up online booking may seem daunting, or cost time you can’t afford to take away from your restaurant, but if you join simpleERB we take care of that for you.

It takes just 30 minutes to get your tables ready to book and we provide you with widgets so your customers can book on your website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Of course, there will always be customers who will prefer to phone their bookings in. But providing them with the option to book online takes away the number who will need to do so.

So your staff can spend their time away from the phone and on the customer’s dining experience.



Here on the simpleERB blog, we never stop stressing the importance of restaurant reviews to your business. We have discussed how negative restaurant reviews can help your business, how negative reviews can hurt your restaurant’s valuation, how to get a good review of your restaurant published on Yelp, and the benefits of publishing negative reviews of your own restaurant. The reason we dedicate so much space on this blog to reviews is because they are integral to your bottom line – as all the evidence in the articles above prove.

Responding to restaurant reviews

And now we have two other pieces of evidence to share. An article from Street Fight this week highlights two academic studies which provide fascination insights into the power of online reviews. The first is from Davide Proserpio of USC and Giorgos Zervas of Boston University in 2016 and is titled “Online Reputation Management: Estimating the Impact of Management Responses on Consumer Reviews.”

The study analysed tens of thousands of TripAdvisor reviews and found that when hotels respond to consumer reviews, on average their review volume increases by 12% and their star rating goes up by 0.12 stars. This might not seem like a lot, but TripAdvisor’s average ratings are rounded to the nearest half star, so if your mathematical average goes from just 4.14 to 4.26, consumers will see a 4.5 rating where a business used to have a 4.

In a summary of the study published earlier this year in Harvard Business Review, the authors offer the following conclusion: “While negative reviews are unavoidable, our work shows that managers can actively participate in shaping their firms’ online reputations. By monitoring and responding to reviews, a manager can make sure that when negative reviews come in—as they inevitably will—they can respond constructively and maybe even raise their firm’s rating along the way.”

Text analysis of restaurant reviews

The second study is by professors Xun Xu, Xuequn Wang, Yibai Lee, and Mohammad Haghighi. It is entitled “Business intelligence in online customer textual reviews: Understanding consumer perceptions and influential factors,” and appeared in the International Journal of Information Management in 2017. The study analysed thousands of hotel reviews on booking.com and instead of looking at ratings, studied the textual content of the reviews, including language and sentiment. The study found the following:

“Online textual reviews can provide a way for businesses to understand customer needs and improve their products and services. Compared with customer ratings, online textual reviews can show more details about customers’ consumption experiences and customer perceptions because of their open structure. Thus, managers can obtain more insights regarding customers’ expectations and needs and their perceived quality of product and services.”

How simpleERB can help

So how to do these findings relate to simpleERB? Well, simpleERB allows you to add a link to the customer confirmation email which allows the customer to submit feedback to you after their meal.

When you get a good review you can tick a box on the email copy which sends them a request to share their review, along with links to your restaurant Facebook and Trip Advisor profiles.

You can then keep an eye on your profiles on these sites to wait for the relevant reviews and respond to them accordingly.

The feature also allows you to deal with negative reviews in house, before they are splashed over the review websites.

Having direct, timely feedback from customers who have just dined at your newsletter is a goldmine of insights you can use to improve your restaurant’s experience.



It’s an important stipulant for many restaurants: that tables must be given back after a certain period of time, usually 90 minutes or two hours. From the restaurant’s perspective this is a reasonable request: it gives customers more than enough time to enjoy several courses and a bottle of wine while ensuring their business has the turnaround it needs to survive and profit in a very difficult industry.

Eating against the clock

However, an article in The Guardian last week by renowned food critic Jay Rayner, and the 1328 comments underneath, suggest asking for tables back is anything but a reasonable request. The article entitled “I’m Tired Of Restaurants Making Us Eat Against The Clock,” says: “I do remember the acute anxiety I felt the first time I came across a two-hour time limit at Yauatcha a few years back. I sat there worrying whether their failure to take my order for 20 minutes was part of the tick, tick, tick. After that, was I eating fast enough? I assumed it was a bizarre one-off. How wrong I was…..It’s just not very hospitable, which is a crying shame for the hospitality business.”

Reader responses

The 1328 responses from readers underneath showed overwhelming agreement. Here are some of the top rated comments:

“Took the whole family out once on Mothers Day, was informed they’d want the table back after 2 hours. I understood this to be a busy day for them and to be honest 2 hours would be fine for us I thought. However, although a lovely meal, service was slow so that on the 2 hour mark we had just tried to order desserts. We were informed that they needed our table to which I explained politely that if they had brought us the food quicker we would have left already. This was met with dull incomprehension about how time works.”

“Completely agree. I am SICK of feeling rushed. Quite often I will have finished my meal in 60/90 minutes, no rushing and zero resentment. But those few times I want to take my time, enjoy myself, make an occasion of it… well, they always seem to be at the restaurants desperate for me to go.

I had a particularly galling experience on Sunday where I was having a wonderful time, spending liberally and enjoying life. 2 hours later I’m asked to vacate for a previously booked table that hadn’t been flagged to me. Even worse, when we vacated and went to the bar, the table didn’t arrive for another 20 minutes.”

“No, just no! They deserve to be boycotted. I’d never frequent such places. Considering that we spend usually £90-120/person, in some restaurants more, I don’t see why I should leave my money where I am going to be rushed and thus made to feel uncomfortable.”

Is it fair to ask for tables back?

As a restaurateur, what is your opinion on this topic? Is it fair to ask customers to give their tables back after time period? Do you do this in your own restaurant?



If you are a simpleERB restaurant, under the GDPR regulations you are the “Data Controller” and we are a “Data Processor” for you.

(If you use an email programme like MailChimp to send marketing emails to your customers, then MailChimp is a “Data Processor” for you as well.)

The ICO (@ICOnews)  have produced a useful  guide for small businesses.

You can get it here 



black jeans on waitress

black jeans are uniform but not tax deductible

43 businesses in the hospitality industry featured in the Minimum Wage Blacklist,  including names like TGI Friday’s and Marriott Hotels. Around 9,200 workers will receive £1.1m in unpaid wages, and the employers were slapped with £1.3m in penalties.

UK Asian food restaurant Wagamama topped the list, repaying an average of £50 to 2,630 employees. The Wagamama case, however, is interesting for another reason, however.

A spokesperson for the restaurant chain blamed its underpayment on an “inadvertent misunderstanding” of how minimum wage laws apply to staff uniforms.

Front-of-house staff are required to wear black jeans or a black skirt with their branded Wagamama top. The government considered this asking the staff to buy a uniform.

The very useful AccountingWEB site observed, “The case seems to centre around asking staff to wear a particular colour or style of clothing is effectively creating a uniform, even though the items of clothing don’t have a logo and would previously be called dual purpose by HMRC.”

Wagamama said it has updated its uniform policy and it will now pay “a uniform supplement to cover the black jeans”. But it still raises the question: Can non-logo clothes be treated as uniform for tax purposes?

Another commentator said that it’s helpful to “to bear in mind that what is and isn’t pay for National Minimum Wage (NMW)  purposes is not and never was based on tax definitions”.

He concluded, “As far as I understand it, Wagamama’s failure was that they didn’t pay a uniform allowance over and above the minimum wage. They just required employees to wear certain clothing. After deducting reasonable costs of such clothing from the pay the employees were left with a net rate of pay below the NMW.

“The employer could have avoided that NMW failure by (a) paying a specific allowance for clothing or (b) a rate of pay with sufficient headroom to cover the clothing. Either way as far as I can see there’s no implication for tax.”

The simpleERB take? HMRC (the taxman) wants to have its cake and eat it too!



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