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?



Reviews are important: this isn’t so much old news to a restaurateur than the equivalent of the first book of Genesis to a restaurateur.

Still, reviews are becoming increasingly important to restaurants in new ways as traditional review websites like Trip Advisor and Yelp make way for Google restaurant reviews; now, if you Google a business, or even Google a query that will result in business listings (i.e. Italian restaurants in New York), you’ll see the business’s name with its number of Google reviews and average star in a prominent position underneath.

Google restaurant reviews

So anyone who has an interest in your restaurant will be immediately confronted with its review status. And as we said, reviews are very important.

Just how important, BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Study tells us: 97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking for a local business online every day, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local business more and 49% of consumers need at least a four-star rating before they choose to use a business.

Google restaurant reviews

When you hear these stats it’s tempting to panic and try the quickest way to tot up those five star Google restaurant reviews you need, even if it’s not exactly legit.

Listen to us carefully: don’t do this. There are few things Google hates more than fake reviews. Don’t ask your employees to leave five star reviews. Don’t offer bribes or service in return for a glowing review. And most dangerous of all, do not pay a business or group of people to write positive reviews for you. Don’t think you’re smarter than Google. You’re not, there’s always a chance they will find out, and if they do they will ban you from the Google listings, a scenario no restaurant wants.

Google’s Review Guidelines state: “Conflict of interest: Reviews are most valuable when they are honest and unbiased. If you own or work at a place, please don’t review your own business or employer. Don’t offer or accept money, products, or services to write reviews for a business or to write negative reviews about a competitor. If you’re a business owner, don’t set up review stations or kiosks at your place of business just to ask for reviews written at your place of business.”

Google is watching you. Every major Google algorithm update is usually preceded by long periods of testing, machine learning and human monitoring by Google created to combat people who are trying to scam the system.

How simpleERB can help

So what to do then? How do you accumulate those positive reviews you need and still play by Google’s rules? You do it organically by encouraging your customers to leave a Google restaurant review if they wish, something simpleERB can hugely help you out with.

simpleERB has a one stop option that allows restaurant owners to encourage customers to share positive reviews on your Google profile, as well as Yelp, Trip Advisor and Facebook (you’ll need to be logged into simpleERB to see this feature).

With simpleERB you can 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 Google, Facebook and Trip Advisor profiles.

How to deal with negative reviews

P.S. More reviews for your restaurant may mean some negative reviews but this doesn’t necessarily need to be a bad thing.

Negative reviews prove your reviews are authentic, they can actually encourage trust (only relentlessly five star reviews are more likely to make customer think they are fake), they allow you to show your excellent customer service when you respond, and they are useful for feedback purposes.

We wrote in more depth about the positive effects of negative reviews on the simpleERB blog here.



2018 is the year email marketing will become essential for restaurants, says industry media company, The Rail.

They believe this year email will overtake Facebook as the marketing tool every restaurant will need to utilise.

restaurant email marketing

Facebook organic reach

In 2017, as every restaurant with a Facebook page will know, Facebook drastically limited organic reach for business pages meaning any who want their post to be seen by their target audience will need to pay for it.

Understandable – Facebook need to profit from their platform somehow (Mark Zuckerberg’s hoodies are not going to pay for themselves).

But this means email marketing has become drastically more important for restaurants.

Restaurant email marketing

“Email is the platform that guarantees your communication will be presented to your followers,” The Rail said. “Even if it’s only your sending address and subject line they read you are at least gaining their attention for a few seconds.”

“Every email address is like currency in the battle to speak to consumers and give them reasons to visit your restaurant. Smart operators will focus on gathering email addresses and regular communicating with their guests.”

Using simpleERB for restaurant email marketing

Believe this to be true but not sure where to start with email marketing? Don’t worry – simpleERB has got you covered. In fact, we can make your restaurant email marketing ludicrously easy.

Not only does simpleERB collect the email address of every customer who books on simpleERB, it collects a complete records of all your customers’ details and their preferences, like how many times they’ve booked, which table they prefer, any dietary requests.

The information is gold dust to a restaurant email marketing campaign. It allows you to send tailored emails that will directly fit your customers’ needs.

Know your customer is a vegan? Email them about your new vegan new. Customer only visited once? Tempt them back with a promo code or special offer. Regular customer? Keep them updated with new dishes and menu changes.

In 2018 join simpleERB for free

Unbelievably, simpleERB can do all this for you for FREE.

There’s no need to spend time gathering email addresses of your customers and taking a note of their preferences – simpleERB does it for you automatically, saving you massive amounts of time.

Make 2018 the year you create a restaurant email marketing campaign of true value – and let simpleERB help you.



As we hope you all know by now, in 2017 the importance of Instagram to restaurants cannot be underestimated.

In recent years, the craze for taking photos of your food and posting them on the social media platform has snowballed, and Instagram now plays a powerful role in influencing where diners choose to eat.

A London restaurant which recognises this has taken an unprecedented step – offering “foodie Instagram packs” encouraging customer to take the most enticing photos of their food.

Foodie Instagram Packs

Anyone who has tried to emulate those foodie Instagrammers who make everything they eat look picture perfect will know it’s not as easy as it looks.

Which is why Dirty Bones in Soho, London are offering their diners a kit which includes a portable LED camera light, a multi-device charger, a clip-on wide angle camera lens and a tripod selfie stick for overhead table shots.

The kits have been designed to provide Instagrammers with everything they need to capture the perfect Instagram shot.

A spokesperson for Dirty Bones said: “People love to share what they’re eating on social media, so we wanted to put together something that made it easier to get that perfect shot regardless of the lighting or time of day.”

“More and more people are also using Instagram to help them decide where to eat, so as a restaurant group it’s key for us to make sure that people are getting the best possible shots of all our dishes and drinks.”

Importance of Instagram to restaurants

Not only that, the Dirty Bones’s entire interior and menu has been designed with Instagram in mind.

The menu is packed with those super “in” dishes that look great on Instagram, like a Mac Daddy Burger, fish tacos and cheeseburger dumplings.

Letting Instagram dictate your entire restaurant decor and menu – a step too far or the future?

How simpleERB can help

With simpleERB you can help encourage their customers to take Instagram worthy snaps of your dishes.

You have the capability to edit simpleERB booking emails sent out to your diners so why not add a note asking diners to take pictures of your food? You could even add a prize for the best shot of the month.

simpleERB builds a complete record of all your customers and their preferences, ensuring that if if they love to take photos of their food they can be placed at the table with the best natural light (we all know how important natural light is for those #foodporn pics).

With simpleERB’s help, you can allow Instagram to help run your restaurant without letting it run you.

simpleERB is free for small restaurants and easily affordable for bigger ones.



Did you know your restaurant could be saving money on taxes simply by experimenting with new recipes and cooking techniques?

According to research by Catax, 60% of restaurant owners and managers in the UK have never heard of R&D tax credits.

R&D tax credits

R&D tax credits are government tax relief rewards for companies in the UK investing in innovation.

Hospitality operators that spend time and money developing new products, processes or services or improving existing ones may be eligible for a tax reduction or cash reimbursement.

This could be anything from coming up with a new cooking technique or food preparation technique.

One restaurant client of Catax received R&D tax relief against the cost of developing a new process for removing fish skin on wild sea trout, without damaging the flesh.

Another client received tax relief against the time and money spent testing the ageing process of beef, and density of the marinade required to affect the flavour.

Restaurant tax relief

With over 50% of respondents to the Catax survey saying they have spent time and money “developing a new product over the past two years” whether it be creating new recipes or food preparation processes, the tax relief advisors believe lack of awareness around R&D is costing the UK’s restaurant and pub owners millions in tax relief.

The survey of 500 bosses found that three in five (60%) restaurant owners and managers in the UK have never heard of R&D tax relief.

Nearly half (46%) of restaurant owners and managers that had heard of it thought it was restricted to specialist tech, drug and science companies and not available to hospitality businesses.

Almost half of UK restaurant owners also said they thought any eligible R&D activity must be successful and end up on the menu for a claim to be made. This is not true – the outcome of the R&D is irrelevant.

Lack of awareness

Mark Tighe, chief executive of Catax, said: “Not enough restaurant and gastro pub owners are aware that a big part of what they do, experimenting with new recipes and food preparation techniques to differentiate themselves, will often be eligible for R&D tax relief.”

“What’s more, they don’t even need to actually sell the recipes they are experimenting with or use the cooking or preparation methods they trial: what matters is the time and money spent trying to do something new and innovate. Importantly, cash can also be realised in as little as eight weeks for reinvestment in future food experimentation.”



Use Mailchimp to manage your email marketing? Now you can use it to manage your Facebook Ads too.

Mailchimp Facebook Ad Campaigns, launched this week, allows Mailchimp users to create Facebook ads and track their performance within their Mailchimp account.

Image from http://blog.mailchimp.com/

The email marketing platform was launched following requests from users to take the sleek user friendly interface of Mailchimp to other marketing channels.

Tom Klein, Mailchimp’s CMO said: “After email, Facebook ads are the next most popular choice with our customers for acquiring customers and generating revenue. We created an ad buying experience that feels like MailChimp, so customers can create beautiful ads quickly and get back to building their business. In just a few steps, you can create ads, set your targeting, and decide your budget. And if you’re already comfortable with MailChimp’s interface, you’ll feel right at home.”

“Businesses keep their customer data and product photos in MailChimp, so it’s the perfect place to kick off an ad campaign to acquire new customers using the data and content they already have. And since a user can sync up their store with MailChimp, we can even tell you the ROI and sales your ad generated. That’s always been tough for entrepreneurs,” says John Foreman, VP of Product Management.

Use simpleERB with Mailchimp Facebook Ad Campaigns

It’s not an exaggeration for us to suggest that simpleERB plus Mailchimp Facebook Ad Campaigns may be the beginning of a beautiful partnership.

Thanks to simpleERB, you already have the gold dust – the email addresses of people who have dined at your restaurant.

You can add your email address to Mailchimp, use the platform to start ad campaigns and find new customers who live in the same locations and have similar interests as your current customers.

Not only can you use Mailchimp Facebook Ad Campaigns to grow your lists, you can also find audiences that look similar to your most engaged customers and target them.

And if any of this sounds overwhelming don’t worry, beta testers of the new interface described it as “really simple,” “ridiculously fast,” smooth, and straightforward”.



This blog post intends to look at the one night stand trap: restaurant diners customer lifetime value.

Restaurant diners can vaguely be split into two categories: one night stands and long term relationships.

The one night stands are only interested in their meal that night. They come along to your restaurant for a good time, not a long time, and tend to eat, drink and spend.

restaurant diners customer lifetime value

Long term relationships are customers who are known to you and your restaurant staff. They dine in your restaurant fairly regularly and have a favourite dish. They choose to come back to your restaurant because they know you and rate you and appreciate the familiarity.

The one night stand trap

There’s a good chance one night stands make up the bulk of your customer base so it’s understandable why restaurateurs tend to focus on them instead of the long term relationships.

Restaurateurs are also guilty of falling into the trap of chasing new one night stands instead of trying to turn the ones they’ve already had into long term relationships, or nurturing the long term relationships they already have.

And it is a trap. Because long term relationships are a lot more meaningful to your business, and can make you a lot more money, than you think.

Restaurant customer retention

According to the Gartner Group, 20 percent of existing customers will be the source of 80 percent of future profits and increasing customer retention rates by only 5 percent will increase profits by 25 to 95 percent

The next time you wave a one night stand out the door of your restaurant, think of these words: customer lifetime value.

Customer lifetime value of your restaurant diners

Customer lifetime value refers to the net profit from the entire future relationship with a customer.

So if a customer comes into your restaurant and spends £100 then comes back once a month for twenty years – that’s a potential customer lifetime value of £24,000.

Instead of putting £100 in your till that night then turning your attention to attracting tomorrow night’s guests, a bit of effort nurturing a relationship with the guest who just left could pay dividends.

Online feedback

So how do you go about building a long term relationship with your restaurant customers?

The obvious answer is to give them an excellent personalised customer service experience that will make them want to come back.

Another important factor of building a long term relationship with your restaurant customer is to monitor their feedback and respond to it. Reviews of your restaurant on TripAdvisor, Yelp, Twitter, etc, are a valuable resource of your customers experience. Did someone have a great time at your restaurant? Thank them personally. Did a customer have a valid complaint? Respond to it, take their criticism on board, and use it to make improvements to the way you run your business.

Responding personally to your customers online allows you to build a relationship of trust and loyalty.

How simpleERB can help

simpleERB makes it easier for restaurateurs to manage their online reviews and analyse their customer feedback.

We give you the option to add a link to your customer confirmation email which allows the customer to submit their thoughts to you after their meal.

This allows you to read your feedback directly from the customer and means you can respond to and deal with negative reviews before they reach review sites.

The features also encourages customers to share positive review on Yelp, Trip Advisor and Facebook (you’ll need to be logged into simpleERB to see).

simpleERB builds a complete record of all your customers and their preferences, ensuring that if Customer A is gluten intolerant and Customer B likes a seat by the window, you’ll be aware of this before they arrive at your restaurant and an create a personalised customer service experience.

simpleERB can help you boost boost the customer lifetime value of your restaurants diners.

Because while one night stands are fun, long term relationships are ultimately a lot more satisfying (and profitable).



What’s your favourite acronym? Here on the simpleERB blog we’re still partial to a WTF. ROFL and LMAO feel pretty dated now, and don’t get us started on YOLO. Incidentally, we just found out the ubiquitous BAE stands for Before Anyone Else. You learn something new every day.

Restaurant acronyms

Restaurant acronyms

Of course business acronyms are very important too. Everyone knows B2B, ROI and KPI, but were you aware of OIBDA (Operating Income Before Depreciation And Amortisation) and GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles?) There’s an acronym to suit every situation, a fact exemplified by recent revelations regarding New York restaurateur Danny Meyer.

Meyer keeps a list of each customer who books at any of the restaurants within his Union Square Hospitality Group and uses acronyms to take notes of their quirks, notable features and preferences. A mole within the Union Square Hospitality Group claims it is the most thorough customer system they have seen in the various restaurant groups they have worked for. Here’s some of the acronyms and codes Meyer uses in his customer database with an explanation of what they mean.

FTD: A first time diner

NL:  A customer who will “Need Love”.

LOL: A customer who will need “Lots Of Love”

SOE: A customer with a “Sense Of Entitlement”.

BIG SIGN: A customer who may well be wearing a sign saying “pay attention to how important I am”.

NO FLY ZONE: A person who will find all of Meyer’s restaurants mysteriously booked up whenever he or she tries to make a reservation. (The mole says the designation is often used for fake names used by companies that make, then resell, reservations.)

MUST DO: An important customer who will always get a table, no matter what.

How simpleERB can help

Meyer’s codes and acronyms are extensive, but a useful way to keep track of customers needs and offer a tailored customer service experience. If you fancy making up your own restaurant acronyms, simpleERB can help. We store a complete database of all your customers and their preferences, so if you have a LOL or a SOE, you’ll know about it in advance and can prepare accordingly.

Just make sure your acronyms aren’t too offensive or NSFW. If a staff member let them slip, JK probably wouldn’t be defensive enough –  and you may find your customers go AWOL.

Want to keep a record of all your customers preferences? Sign up to simpleERB – free for small restaurants and easily affordable for bigger ones.

 

 

 



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