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


Hands up, who’s still using a paper diary for their restaurant reservations? Well you’re certainly not alone and over the next few weeks we’ll be looking at the paper diary versus the electronic restaurant diary, starting with examining the six key problems with paper diaries.

Why people still use paper restaurant diaries

Despite the proliferation of technology available to make everyone’s job easier and drive more revenue for a business, people’s routines are hard to change and with paper restaurant diaries, ‘routine’ is often the biggest reason why restaurants still use them. From our experience, the main reasons restaurateurs still use paper diaries include:

  • They do their job to a level people are happy with, people are comfortable and familiar with them and it’s been part of the restaurant’s daily routine since day dot.
  • Paper restaurant diaries are free.
  • They don’t need any set up or staff training.

But are these reasons really compelling enough against the benefits to a business of moving over to an electronic diary? Let’s look at the problems with the paper diary and how an electronic diary deals with them.

Problem 1: Disappearing act

It’s a simple problem but put plainly a diary can get lost. Or worse, sabotaged by an angry employee. Do you have a back up anywhere? ERB solution: all the booking data you put into simpleERB is stored securely in the cloud (it’s software as a service and managed via the internet). So unlike if a waiter loses your one and only copy of the paper diary restaurant diary,  the data can be accessed quickly and easily from any device.

Problem 2: Overbooking

Paper diaries make overbooking very easy. Staff can often put more covers in the diary for a time period than the kitchen can cope with. ERB solution: simpleERB is set up to know your maximum number of covers for a sitting so automatically prevents overbookings.

Problem 3: Is Laura allergic to nuts?

Add in customer dining preferences

Add in customer dining preferences

Your manager probably knows your customers’ preferences but what if she leaves? How will the rest of the staff know if Laura, who’s a big spender, is allergic to nuts? ERB solution: you can store all your customer preferences in simpleERB within the customer’s account, for any of your staff to see whenever they take a future booking from that particular person. Record their dietary requirements, whether they’re a friend of the owner and any other relevant detail. This means all staff can ‘know the customer’.

Problem 4: No feedback

Customers can give you fantastic feedback personally but how does the paper diary let you record and utilise this feedback? Paper diaries don’t let your customers send you feedback. ERB solution: simpleERB lets diners privately review their restaurant experience. This review will go directly to you and you can then respond directly to any negative feedback and encourage users with positive feedback to share their experience via Tripadvisor, Facebook, etc.

Problem 5: Building your customer list

simpleERB electronic restaurant diary

simpleERB electronic restaurant diary

A customer list is essential to your business if you’re looking to maintain their custom, communicate with them and encourage them to keep coming back. You can build a list with a paper diary but it’s very inefficient. After recording their booking in your paper diary, do you manually then add it to a spreadsheet or another list? Either way, it’s ineffective. ERB solution: Every time you take a booking through simpleERB, their contact details are stored automatically allowing you to quickly export your list to a spreadsheet or third party software. It also helps build your email marketing list. Customers can receive an email booking confirmation – a further incentive for them to give you their email address and helping you to market to them in the future.

Problem 6: No connectivity

Paper, of course, doesn’t connect to the internet. So if you take bookings via your website or Facebook page, how do you transfer them into your paper diary? Manually? And what if someone places a booking on your website but the space is already taken in the paper diary? ERB solution: simpleERB lets you take reservations via your website or Facebook page, ony displaying available covers, and automatically updates your diary.

Round one: The winner?

So in round one of the paper diary vs electronic reservations diary, I think it’s clear that the ERB has won. In the next posts, I’ll explore the objections around cost, installation and training. If you want to give simpleERB a try, you can set up your restaurant and play around with the features I talked about above here for free.

How do you consistently get messages, important to the day to day running of your restaurant, across to all your staff?

Messages like:
“Remember to ask for customer’s email address.”
“All parties over 10 need to pay a deposit.”
“Get a credit card number for Christmas bookings!”
“We have a live band on Tuesday nights.”

So what are your options?

The notice board? (Who reads it?)
Post-it-Notes on the telephone? (They fall off.)
Notes on their order pads? (They lose them.)
Pre service briefing? (Every time?)
Tattoos on their hands? (Probably not legal.)

It’s hard.

Well, with simpleERB’s latest update, we have made this super easy; you can set up messages for staff to appear on your booking screen in a couple of minutes.

Messages for staff

Messages for staff

Go to Settings > Advanced Settings and from the General Settings menu select Waiter messages. From here you can set up custom messages with different timeframes.

You can decide if they are permanent, (e.g. “Get customers’ emails”), day specific (e.g. “We have a band on Tuesday nights”) or date specific, (e.g. “Get a credit card number for Christmas bookings.”).

The message will appear on the booking pages that the waitperson is seeing.

No more excuses for not getting that crucial information over! And if messages aren’t adhered to, staff names are recorded next to bookings so you can see where the miscommunication occurred.

Messages on booking screen

Messages on booking screen

social media

Add social media profiles to restaurant booking confirmations

We know you love tweeting what today’s special is, and that you can’t help but share a good bit of feedback on Facebook or that your chef just can’t stop instagramming his kitchen creations, but did you know that you can also direct your customers to your social media pages through simpleERB?

The addresses of you social media profiles can appear on your customers’ booking confirmation emails.

Simply, go to Settings > Advanced settings > General settings and select Social Media.

All you do is simply add your social profile URLs and your customers will be able to find you easily on their favourite social networks from their booking confirmations.

Your social links on customer's booking email

Your social links on customer’s booking email

Some interesting research has been conducted on the food habits of millennials (i.e. people between 18-30 years old) which has some key takeaways on their restaurant habits.

This study of 2,000 millennials by the United States Potato Board (yes, such a thing exists!) had the following insights into millennials views on dining:

  • Food is a social experience and an opportunity for exploration.
  • They want exciting food that’s natural and unprocessed.
  • When going to a restaurant, they’re looking for value for money above all (Value doesn’t mean cheap; quality and experience contribute to perceived value).
  • They use the Internet to find new restaurants and use online reviews.

Restaurant Hospitality has some further stats and insights into the research and you can see the original research here.

What you say, another update?! Just a small update this time folks.

Advanced settings

We have rearranged the Advanced Settings to make them easier to navigate. We recommend you take a look through them, many of them will really benefit your restaurant. For instance, did you know you can add links to your social media sites to your customers’ booking confirmation emails? Take a look at the Advanced Settings and see if any could help your restaurant.

Tab to yesterday/tomorrow

We’ve added the ability to tab backwards and forwards to view yesterday and tomorrow on your bookings/diary/grid pages – see image below.

Yesterday / tomorrow

Other recent updates

If you missed any of our other recent updates, read about them from the links below:

WomanEatingDinnerRestaurantLunch_iStock_000006334841SmallYou know that you can make your restaurant more profitable if you can capture your customers’ emails and market to them. That’s why you are using simpleERB or considering using it. simpleERB makes that stuff easy.

However, there is one type of situation where you may still be missing a trick.

The “Big Party”.

The birthday bash, the corporate night out, Christmas parties.

10, 20, 40, 50 people – maybe more.

And you have only one email address…the person who organised and made the booking.

What is a super efficient restaurateur marketer like you to do?

Comments cards!

Customer review form

Customer review form

Yes the old fashioned comment card has a role to play in these sort of scenarios.

If you already send out review requests to your customers from simpleERB, simply copy the questions in this review. You can get this by either making a test booking yourself or there’s an example on the right.

Copy or edit the questions, add in a section allowing customers’  to put in their contact details (you don’t want to miss out on that email address!), format as a comment card and send it to your friendly printer.

Get small cards printed with an enticing message on the front like, Win a meal for 2 at [your restaurant name] to incentivise .

Put these out on the tables of the big parties with dessert.

Voila! Instead of one email address you have 10, 20, 40 or 50.

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