Have you ever had a restaurant audit? Aaron Allen & Associates have written a great article on some of the top mistakes and missed opportunities in the day to day running of a restaurant. They conduct 100s of restaurant audits each year and see the same issues crop up time and time again, so they know their stuff.

Here are some of my favourites on the list that cover restaurant service mistakes and missed marketing opportunities.

Service

“Number 2: Greeting with “May I help you?” – I often respond “uh, yes, I would like a haircut please” to this”

Obvious, but very true. Think about how conversation works, although this feels like a natural way to welcome someone in a semi- formal manner, it demands an obvious answer; they’re in your restaurant, they’re obviously looking to dine!

Instead, give the customer a warm welcome and then ask them if they’re looking for a table of 2 or expecting more people, for example.

If you want to make super sure you’re staff are greeting your customers properly, write a note to remind on simpleERB. You can set up a message that staff see every time they take a booking.

“Number 9: Failing to recommend a favorite or popular item”

Your staff should know what dishes have been getting rave reviews, what’s the most popular dish that day, if the special is proving really popular – this is all information that should be communicated to your customers.

When a customer is presented with a menu, it can sometimes be an overload of information, staff helping highlight popular dishes helps them filter through it and provides a valuable insight.

What’s more, if the customer is a regular you can record within simpleERB when they make their booking, their preferences and likes/dislikes. This information is then available to anyone who takes the booking and serves them in the future. For instance, if it’s recorded in simpleERB that the customer is a big seafood fan, you could point out new seafood dishes on the menu.

Marketing

“Number 67: Website is deficient or an afterthought (33% of customers visit website before choosing a restaurant to go to for the first time)”

Can’t agree with this more. As 1,000s of people have said before me, your website is your online shopfront. People will judge your business by it and choose whether to spend their money with you or somewhere else so it needs to be up to scratch.

Does your website take online booking? You need to capture people at the website level and make it easy to book from there. simpleERB gives you a widget to add to you website allowing you take restaurant bookings that will then go straight into your restaurant diary.

“Number 70: Programs to build customer database absent or lacking – don’t know who their customers are”

“Knowing” your customers harks back to my point above; simpleERB acts as a CRM system for your restaurant. It lets you save the diner’s contact details, including their email address, their preferences, whether their a VIP, friend of the owner, etc., how many times they’ve dined before and so on. This means that whenever anyone takes a booking, even if that server has never met that particular customer before, they know their history.

What this also means is that you can use your customer database within simpleERB to market to your customers in the future. simpleERB records and stores their email address, have you every thought about sending your customers an email to drive future revenue?

Read Aaron Allen & Associates original article and full list of 80 here – are you guilty of any of them?

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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



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:



Have you read about the recent study into the impact of TripAdvisor reviews on users’ restaurant and hotel reservations? Over 12,000 respondents were surveyed by PhoCusWright and the key takeouts were:

  • 53% of travellers won’t book until they read reviews
  • 50% usually or always reference reviews before choosing a restaurant
  • 53% of British travellers/46% of American travellers always or usually read TripAdvisor reviews before choosing a restaurant

Importance of reviews

If you were unsure as to the impact and importance of having reviews of your restaurant online, then this study demonstrates just how important they are for getting new diners through your door.

Reviews influence diners’ decisions to book your restaurant or not and are important for giving feedback to management. Good reviews boost takings and promote positivity in your restaurant.

Reviews and their impact on overall TripAdvisor star ratings was investigated by US economists who found a correlation between star rating and how busy a restaurant was during peak periods – just half a star makes all the difference.

Get reviews through simpleERB

In case you didn’t see our most recent update, we’ve added a new reviews feature into simpleERB letting you make the most of good reviews and deter bad reviews from being posted online so you can deal with them directly first.

Customer review form

Customer review form

You can now choose to let your customers review their meal after they dine in your restaurant from their booking confirmation email, and if they don’t, remind them after 18 hours.

These reviews will be sent back to you privately. This gives you the opportunity to catch any bad reviews and respond to them directly with the customer prior to them posting the negative review on social media and review sites like TripAdvisor.

Feeding back to you before posting online is crucial.

Motivate positive posting on TripAdvisor

Secondly, you want to encourage users to share positive reviews they send you.

We’ve added into simpleERB the ability to selectively respond to people who’ve reviewed your venue positively, encouraging them to share their good review on Tripadvisor, Yelp, etc. and social media.

Encourage users to share good reviews, discourage bad reviews being posted by dealing with them first and directly. simpleERB, on your side!

You can view the full TripAdvisor infographic here.



This week we’ve released some new features to simpleERB that we think you’ll like.

Rate your meal

Rate your meal

Private reviews

The big news is that we have added the ability for you to get private reviews from customers from their booking confirmation emails.

Customer review form

Customer review form

You can choose whether or not to include a ‘Rate your meal after you dine’ section within your customers’ booking confirmation email. It’s up to you whether you want to include the section or not, you can enable or disable whenever you like.

To enable, from your Advanced Settings, click Get Customer Feedback and simply check the box Enable Customer Feedback. This will put in the ‘Rate your meal after you dine’ section within the email confirmation. You need to have “booking confirmations” enabled in order to send out review requests. (This is in Simple Settings, Restaurant Info).

The customer simply clicks a link after they have dined to send a private review to you. Customers will only be able to send reviews 2 hours after the booking time.

Get customer feedback

Get customer feedback

If they don’t click on the link, they will get a reminder 18 hours after they have dined letting them know that they can review following their meal.

Read the rest of this entry »



Are you a Franklin? Hopefully you’ve never been called a yelp-er?

If you’ve ever frequented the bars of New York you may have listened in to the bartenders’ chatter and noticed some strange terms being used.

The New York Times online has done a great piece on the secret vocabulary of some of New York’s finest bars covering making drinks, customers, colleagues and other minutia of the job.

Here are some of my favourites below and you can view the full list on NYTimes.com.  

Sniper – wears sunglasses indoors, at night

Johnny black card – big spender

Organaleptic – a drink that appeals to all five senses

Dirty pour – pouring the entire contents of a shaker (ice and all) into the serving glass.

Pharmacist – One who orders the most obscure drinks, with the most obscure specifications.



Perch app

Perch app

Want to see what your competitors are doing on Twitter? On Facebook? Their Foursquare checkins? Their Yelp reviews? What deals they’ve run?

Try out this free app Perch (Apple App Store and Google Play, it’s the one called “Small Business”, confusingly there are other Apps called “Perch”)

Just download and install on your phone.

You might have to request that they add a business if it’s not there. (Their coverage seems US – centric). They have a FAQS page here.

A useful tool 🙂

 



If you’ve signed in to your simpleERB account over the last 24 hours you may have noticed some new features that were released yesterday.

Quick move of reservations

Quick move of reservations

Quick move of reservations

This first update enables a logged in manager to move one reservation to a free table quicker than before. If the guest’s stay time is compromised then the manager can respond quickly and say this is ok on simpleERB.

You can access this from the guest’s individual booking page and you’ll see a new Quick Move box between Table layout and Covers. Just click the box and you can quickly swap the guest’s tables.

Diary view

Diary view options

Diary view options

We’ve introduced new options to Diary view. Now you can easily view today’s, tomorrow’s, next week’s and next month’s bookings. Just select your view at from the tabs at the bottom of the diary.

 

Close off to web bookings

Change web availability

Change web availability

Perhaps you’ve decided your don’t want to get any web bookings on a particular day or that you want to save your best tables for other bookings. We have now made it easier to close off future days, dates and/or times to web bookings.

Simply go to Settings and under Advanced Settings you’ll find  Web Booking Availability. Here you can quickly suspend web booking availability by day of the week or by a particular date and time range. You can select whether this applies to all tables in your restaurant or selected tables.

Social media links on confirmation emails

Social Media links

Social Media links

You want your customers to find you on your social media accounts and there’s no better way than including links to your social profiles within customers’ booking confirmations.

Now you can do this easily with your simpleERB account. Go to Social Media in Advanced Settings and from here you can enter your social media details. Once saved, these will now appear in all booking confirmation  your customers get.

Also, in case you missed it, we updated simpleERB with a new Manager’s Day Book feature a few weeks ago – read more about how to use Manager’s Day Book here.

 

 



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