With the festive season well underway, you are probably up to the eyeballs in Christmas crackers and mince pies. The last thing you want to think about is the dreaded January Blues, what a way to be a grinch! However, hear us out. 

January is renowned for being quiet and having the biggest dip in restaurant sales. In January this year, UK pub and restaurant figures were down a further 1.8 percent on last January’s (2018) collective like-for-like sales, according to RSM & Coffer Group Coffer Peach Business Tracker. RSM has attributed this dip to the growing influence in public health campaigns such as Dry January and Veganuary among Brexit and adverse weather, which undoubtedly could drop a customer’s average dining spend.

Therefore, to not let the normal sales dip go any lower and worsen the slump right off the back of the festive high, we suggest setting up a creative marketing campaign to try and use those customer January blues to your advantage. 

Creating an innovative marketing idea

In the past, a couple of restaurants have been notably innovative with their January promotions. 

Wahaca (Mexican restaurant franchise) introduced a quirky marketing campaign back in 2015 in a bid to return their highly coloured spoons by initiating an Annual Spoon amnesty in January. Customers were encouraged to bring back the spoon in return for a free plate of tacos. This was a great solution for the restaurant to regain assets and lure in customers.

A couple of years back, Liverpool restaurant Lucha Libre headed down the generosity route off the back of festive goodwill spirit, by joining up with the “Keep It Local” campaign. The restaurant donated 10% of a customer’s bill to a local church helping rough sleepers if they could show they had spent £5 or more in a local independent business, retailer or charity. This also included a 40% discount off the bill. This campaign not only encouraged dinners in with the lure of a discounted meal but also ensured other local businesses were supported.

Meanwhile this year, Yo! Sushi seized at the opportunity to ride the Veganuary and New Year health resolution mentality bandwagon, by launching the Make It! menu. It offered diners 40 dishes at £3 each and the chance to detox with 14 vegan dishes and plates under 180kcal (some even fitting in with the WeightWatchers Smartpoints plan). This was a great way to entice those diners who would not necessarily have dined in January the option head out.

You could always fall back on the classic marketing strategies such as a; 2-4-1 on mains, £1 sides to add to your meal, a percentage discount off the food bill by quoting a ‘catchy’ code name or offering return vouchers for anyone who dines with you in January. Alternately you could ask customers to bring in unwanted Christmas foods/gifts to donate to a charity in return for a free coffee or a return visit voucher discount. A win for all! 

Got a great idea, now how to implement. 

So you now have a cracking idea to win over those January customers, what is the best way to promote and monitor the impact it has on your restaurant. You can promote it with good old fashioned flyers or use the power of a social media post. However, it can be hard to be prepared for customers and manually keep track of those taking up the offer by noting it against a booking. If that is, the customer remembers to quote it at the time of booking! 

simpleERB has a great feature you can use to promote, track and source reports on your January campaign all in one with ‘booking offers’! Further information on setting these up can be found here. There is also an option to set these as private so that normal customers booking online will not be able to view this and only customers you have promoted this too can book (find out how, here). This will help to generate a mix of customer sales throughout January, as you don’t want everyone coming in receiving a discount. After creating your ‘booking offer’ and generating the private booking URL, you can then use to create an email campaign with companies such as Mailchimp or add a shortened version as a link inside a social media post. 



When the customer books the offer via the link, this is marked on their booking (can also be applied for telephone bookings) and can be easily identified in a diary or print view.  

For an email campaign, under the GDPR regulations, you are only able to market to customers who have agreed verbally with staff or selected to “opt-in” via the online booking widget. You can source your ‘opted in’ customer emails by specifying the customer category using the customer’s export report and selecting the “opted into marketing messages via email” button. It would be good practice to make sure your team is aware of the law and asking telephone bookings if they agree to ‘opt-in’,  to help increase your GDPR compliant customer database for marketing. 

By using the customer export report, it means you can generate a list of customers with the specific criteria that you wish to advertise this too. Be it people who dined in December, people you have marked as loyal customers via quick info buttons or people who in the past dined on other offers you ran. 

To promote via social media, you can add the private booking link to the Facebook or Instagram post which gives customers the opportunity to make a booking straight away when viewing.

You can then monitor the promotion within the ‘booking offers’ by viewing the allocation booked or by pulling a customer export booking report selecting to show only customers who have booked the offer. We also have the forward covers report you could pull to examine if the promotions have given you a cover boost in January 2020 compared to the bookings you had in 2019.

When you have launched your creative promotion and marketed it to your customers, hopefully, you can sit back and monitor its progress in beating those January blues. 

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

You may have noticed over the last week a few recent tweaks and changes were made to the live site. Some of these are small fixes, however, we have added two new changes to improve efficiency. 


Widget Suspends – View only current suspends with an option to view older

To avoid a long list of historical widget suspends piling up in this setting and to prevent newer suspends from getting missed, we have updated the viewing option. Only the current and relevant suspends will be presented to you and if you require to view older suspends, you can see these via the ‘show all old suspends’ blue button.  See our article about it here for more information.

Cancellation Emails – Now sent to telephone customers

We have now set up an auto-send cancellation email to be sent to any telephone customer (with a listed email) that calls the restaurant direct to cancel their booking. This will allow customers to have a record of the cancellation.

Closed Tables – Dropbox now lists the table’s restaurant area

When closing off specific tables for certain time slots, we have added in the dropbox the tables restaurant area. This way you can easily identify and close off tables without having to remember where they are positioned.

One Button Autofill – Quickly book in a returning customer

simpleERB already has customer matches and the option to auto-fill in individual details fields, however, we have now added in a one-button auto fill. When booking in a returning customer, if you have a match from the database you can now click “yes this customer” which will quickly input all the customer details fields along with quick info and if they have opted in for marketing with a simple click of a button. See our help article here.

Deposit and Card Capture with Stripe integration – Now SCA compliant

After a couple of teething problems at launch, our Stripe integration for customer payments within simpleERB (deposits/card capture) is now in line with the new SCA (strong customer authentication) regulations. This means that customer’s payments will be processed smoothly and don’t decline due to banks not authenticating the transaction.

Report Name Change – Forward covers

We have changed the name of the Forward Bookings report to Forward Covers, as the report is showing the number of covers and not bookings.

Removing Customers Email – Confirmation email URL

In the reminder email sent to customers, the confirm booking URL was pulling the customer’s full email address. We have now removed this from view.

Bug Fix – Analog time discrepancy for last order time in dropbox

We noticed that in the ‘last order time’ dropbox on a couple of settings was showing midnight as 0 am and noon was 12 pm. We have now fixed this to show the correct time.

We are working on a few other things to improve the current settings and also have some great new features in the pipeline for the turn of the new decade 2020. We love to hear feedback and your thoughts on how we could improve the service for you, so please let us know (help@simpleERB.com)













Image sourceSupernico26


Have you missed us? Sorry for the radio silence around here the past few months, however, we have plenty of excuses if you want to hear them!

We have been working hard on updates to keep in compliance with the new European payment regulations of SCA (Strong Customer Authentication) and we have been busy developing new smaller features and tweaks to enhance the booking system for you all. 

SCA (Strong Customer Authentication) 

To make sure we are in line with SCA regulations, our tech team have been working away to ensure customer payments with Stripe integration (deposits and card capture) don’t fall through the cracks and decline payments. We did experience a couple of teething problems with the initial switch on, after hours of pre-testing behind the scenes, which unfortunately did affect a few restaurants. So you can see it wasn’t as easy as 1..2..3. However, hats off to the team as this is now live within simpleERB so you can rest easy knowing that customers deposits will now be accepted without any authorisation problems. Especially as Christmas is in sight with customers already making bookings! 

If you don’t already have deposits and card capture set up, please see this link on more information. We feel this is a valuable feature in the lead up to Christmas to help reduce no shows and secure concrete festive bookings.

Snapshot of upcoming tweaks 

We will also be sending out a new release update soon with all the new tweaks to current features to improve the system. A lot of the new updates have come from user suggestions, which we highly welcome. A couple of these changes include;

  • Quick view of advanced cancelled bookings in manager day book (keep an eye out for large party cancellations!)
  • Widget bookings default to mobile number (so customers are not adding a landline to the incorrect field)
  • Historic booking report to show report in covers rather than bookings (more accurate data for forecasting)
  • Cancellation email sent to customers who call to cancel if an email is supplied (for customer’s reference)
  • Restaurant logo now displayed on customer booking confirmations (visual branding and marketing)

Along with the upcoming release notes, we have a couple of interesting blog posts on their way to help ease the pain in planning for the festive madness. So, we are happy to say…..we are back in the ‘blog’ business.

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.

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 

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.

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.

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