The countdown is on to the most wonderful time of the year…..the festive ‘silly’ season and Christmas Day! Over next two months for most restaurants, it will be the busiest and possibly most profitable time of the year.  Early bird bookers have probably already been making their mark in the diary the last few weeks, but the bulk of festive bookings will be jingling their bells in the coming weeks to grab a reservation.

simpleERB can help take the stress out of the booking and organising madness to ensure restaurants also have a merry time. We have a planning checklist below of various settings and reports to use that can make the whole process run ‘a little’ smoother. Shame simpleERB can’t also cook the turkey!

 

Check your Forward Bookings report

If you used simpleERB last Christmas, you can use the ‘forward booking report’ to compare your covers last year to what you currently have booked in the diary this year. Use this data to help with financial forecasting, purchasing/ordering (Christmas crackers!), staff rostering and checking if you need to increase your festive marketing if you appear to have less covers than you did at this time last year.

Three powerful ways simpleERB can maximise your profitability

Your everyday default settings might be set differently to how you want them run over Christmas on specific days/date when you have more staff on hand allowing the potential to get more people in door. For example you might want to allow more covers in at earlier dining time slot for set party bookings and a longer table turn time rather than your peak dinner times later in the evening. In our advance settings, you can control this with override max covers on time slots and the table turn time to manage specific date/day service/sittings better.

If you are going to be running sittings on the big day instead of your set time slot increments, simpleERB has a magical setting called ‘partial open days’. Here you can add different time slots you want customer to book without affecting other festive dates. A great example is, you could add two bookable sittings for Christmas Day customers (12:30 and 17:30 with a 2.5 hour table turn) to ensure no one books out with these set times. When adding in the two sittings, note you will need to make two individual time allocations making sure that your open/close and last order times do not overlap. It’s also helpful to amend different opening hours you might have during the festive season to make the most of it (you might wish to close early on Christmas Eve).

You might also wish to change around your normal restaurant layout around just for Christmas Day so that you can make areas more efficient for the larger bookings. For more information on how to change your restaurant layout, see our help article here. Alternatively open up a private function area/tables normally closed off from online booking or smaller parties to ensure you aren’t missing out on customers.

Close out dates to prevent accidental bookings

Make sure you close out  simpleERB using closed days on days you won’t be open over the festive period. This will close the online widget and removes time slots from the booking diary, so that none of your team can accidentally book a customer in that you won’t be able to take. 

Changes to widget availability

Bear in mind that customers will be trolling the internet for places to book last minute, therefore, it might be a good idea to make tweaks to your current widget availability. This could be lowering your normal max covers so that you are controlling large party bookings or increasing the minimum time between booking and arrival to ensure customers are not booking at the very last minute with warning on a busy night. Remember that you can alway close off your widget to specific dates/times and tables to help control booking flow.

Secure those large party bookings with deposit/card capture rules

If you are intending on accommodating large party bookings and want to avoid losing them to ‘no shows’ and last minute cancellations or a drop in numbers, we do suggest setting up deposit/card capture rules in simpleERB using the Stripe integration. This way you can be merry knowing that you have measures in place to secure that Christmas revenue. If you are unsure about whether you should enforce payment on larger bookings, take a look at our blog post here to help with the decision. (And deposits do help your cashflow!)

If you do enforce deposits, always remember to be vigilant on monitoring overdue deposits with reports (find out how here).

Add offers to monitor festive set menu allocations

You may have multiple fixed priced festive menus running along side your a la carte menu. To ensure you have enough Brussel sprouts for all to enjoy, in simpleERB you could utilise the booking offers setting by adding in your different menus to allow customers and staff to notify which option they wish to dine on within their booking details. Set these offers to have different booking availability you may require for specific date/days as well. You can then print out the diary with “notes” visible so chefs can quickly tally how many covers are dining on specific menus.

Use quick information buttons to be prepared for special requirements

To make certain your team are on top of any special booking requirements coming in the door, use the quick booking information buttons to mark these against bookings and view easily in the dairy view. These are customisable and can also be pulled in customer export reports. This way you can give advance warning to the chefs for any severe allergies/dietary requirements so there are no surprises

Finally, don’t forget the basics

With the silly season in full swing, it can be easy to forget the basic things to help with all bookings. Make sure you also have these points covers;

  • Staff messages – add notes to remind your team to ask customers for dietary/allergies, apply booking offers
  • Customer messages – add anything customers should be aware of about booking over the festive period via the online booking widget 
  • Revise your T&C – if you are going to have deposit/card capture or strict booking polices over the festive season, make sure you update your normal terms to reflect this


According to these statistics, in 2017 within the UK there were 86,630 businesses operating in the restaurant and mobile food service industry. With so many dining and delivery options, how do you keep customers coming back after wowing them with your service and food?

 

Restaurateurs know that it is by far easier and cheaper to get a sale from an existing customer than it is to go out and scout some new ones. However, did you know that the Harvard Business School advises that, “increasing customer retention rates by five percent increases profits by 25 percent to 95 percent” ? Even with the lure of increasing profit, retention is extremely important because it is these loyal customers that will provide you with regular business through quiet periods and will also help you attract new customers through recommendations.

So how can you improve your customer retention rates you may ask and build this customer loyalty? We have 5 tips below you can use with a bit of help from simpleERB. 

1) Customer Reviews

Reviews are a great way to gauge your customers experience and to also build a public rapport. By responding to negative and more importantly positive reviews, lets your customers know how much you value their comments. In simpleERB, you have the ability to control reviews internally by sending customers a review link after dining. This give customers an immediate outlet rather than going straight to social media. You can then send to positive reviews a personalised email by the tick of a button to thank them and ask them to help by reviewing on your preferred social media platform. Everyone likes to feel appreciated and by just responding to their personal experience can increase their likelihood of a revisit. See our blog post here on evidence that proves how important reviews are and our help article on simpleERB reviewing.

2)  Add personal touches to your customers’ experience

We all know how nice it is to have a simple candle added to a birthday dessert or complimentary chocolates at a special hotel stay. These extra touches are the ones that keep you going back, especially for celebratory occasions. You can add a personal touch, (that won’t break the bank), with the help of simpleERB before they even arrive by sending a personalised text message about their upcoming booking.

When making the customer booking, note down any dietary requirements or reasons for their visit within their booking using quick info buttons or notes. Have staff go through the diary view with “show quick info” option enabled the day prior or on the day and note any of these special requirements. Your staff can then go into each booking and send a personal text advising you are looking forward to; celebrating their birthday/anniversary, aware of their dietary requirements or have the high chairs at the ready with coloured pencils! This will show the restaurant you care about there booking needs and they will already have a positive vibe before walking in the door!

3) Use your customers’ booking data for tailored email campaigns

Tailoring your email campaigns to a specific criteria of your customer database, will ensure you are targeting the desired people who will maximise return and build a unique rapport with those customers. Customers are more likely to read the marketing email you have sent if it appeals to them exclusively. Think about how many company emails you receive daily that you actually open. You can easily narrow down your customer criteria with simpleERB by using the customers export report. Here you can filter customer data to; booking periods, previous booked offers/promotions and your customised quick info buttons. For example; you may wish join the band of restaurants increasing the number of vegan options in your menu. Send an email to all the customers who have been marked as vegan and welcome them to come in and try the new dishes you created for them!

4) Use booking offers for unique loyalty programs

A loyalty program or a competition are always great initiatives to entice customers to come back, which will  hopefully convert them into a ‘regular diner’. Once you have created a stand out incentive for your customers who have dined before, you can then create a private booking offer where you can send them a unique link to book their treat for being a great customer. Only customers with this link can book that online offer you have set up for them. Great example could be a free dessert on your fourth visit. Monitor this with a classic tamp card or have staff observe the customer booking history. When the customer dines for the third time, your staff could send over a personal email from within the customers booking with the link when marking the table ready. 

5) Keep on top of disappearing Customers 

Lastly and more importantly, you need to monitor those customers who are slipping away and entice them back! Like we said right back at the beginning (we’ve gone full circle), it is easier to get a sale from someone who has already dined in your restaurant. The disappearing customer report in simpleERB, which you can set to auto send each month, can help with this by being able to pull the right data. You can export a list of customer who previously dined 3 times in the year but haven’t visited in the past 3 months. Put this information to good use and set up a campaign to get them back in the door with a “we’ve missed you” personalised email along with a private bookable offer of a complimentary welcome back drink.

Apart from these five tips, you could always think outside the box and look at alternatives. This could be looking at setting up a live chat box on your website (click here to see Top 10 Live Chat Softwares ) or using messenger on your Facebook page with customer set FAQ. This allows customers to message you quickly for immediate gratification on trivial queries they might have about menus or bringing a cake which will help build a personable rapport before they even dine.

Image: StockSnap from Pixabay



With Christmas right around the corner (less than 3 months….but who’s counting) and mince pies already stocked on shop shelves, customers are on the hunt for booking the festive season.

Trying to run a smooth restaurant service can often resemble a plate spinning circus act, of trying to get the right balance with staffing, food costs and overheads. Then add to the mix the busy festive season, the dreaded no shows and the last minute cancellations and you could be one plate smash away from a significant hit to the bottom line and turning into the Christmas grinch.

According to an article from Big Hospitality at the beginning of the year, an online booking platform found that “over a third of UK diners say they have failed to turn up for a reservation”. You may ask, is it worth enforcing deposits on larger bookings over Christmas to protect your revenue?

Costs of a No Show / Late Cancellations

So let’s look at the actual cost of a no show. If the no show was for example a Christmas party of 10 and we say your festive 2 course set menu spend is £/$/€25 per person, and your gross profit before staff and fixed costs is 70%  – then this no show costs you £/$/€175 and your profit (or rather contribution to costs) would be £/$/€175 if they had turned up. That’s a big figure along with the extra cost of a few merry sherries to lose, plus the loss of 15-20 min service time to confirm if the customers are actually going to turn up. 

Even if the table was to turn up but only 5 showed due to last minute drop outs, you will still be down £/$/€87.50 and the possibility of another booking of 5 that you might have earlier turned away due to no availability! So you might be thinking from crunching the numbers….if only you had taken a deposit of £10 per head to cover the basic costs for that party booking so that you wouldn’t be out of pocket.

If you are not entirely sure if deposits are right for you, we have another great post looking at the pro/cons of deposits vs. holding credit card details.

Benefits of Enforcing Deposits

So obviously the main reason for deposits is to secure and protect your valuable restaurant revenue but there are also a few other benefits. 

  • Reduce and possibly eradicate the number of no shows

By having clear deposit and booking T&C’s, it will deter parties that book for 3 or 4 restaurants at the same time before finalising their plans. This way you know these larger parties are 90% going to attend – 10% unforeseen circumstances.

  • Efficiently budget for staff and keep team morale

By knowing you are covered financially for larger bookings, you will have a better control on staff rota and not over staff. This can boost team morale by not having to let casual staff leave early due to a quiet restaurant that wasn’t anticipated.

  • Your in control of the deposit

Rather than taking full payment upfront which could discourage bookings, deposits allow you to control and decide if given certain circumstances the customers should have it returned. With simpleERB deposits, you control the booking type that require deposits along with the ability to monitor overdue payments easily with reports.

simpleERB deposits are quick and secure to set up

Deposits are easy to set up within simpleERB with Stripe integration and you can rest easy knowing customers details are safe and secure and not being left around scribbled on paper notes.

You can find below some FAQ articles with information;

If you have any further questions about deposits or would like a copy of our payment set up guide, please get in touch via help@simpleERB.com

Image source – Pixabay



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.



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!



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



We’ve only just had Christmas but with Valentines Day looming we wanted to point you in the direction of a neat little ‘hack’. This might make your planning for special occasions or one off events in your restaurant run a little more smoothly.

Last year, one of our users, Allium by Mark Ellis, came to us looking to set up their restaurant differently for a few days in February around Valentines Day. Rather than have their regular setup, they wanted a predominantly two cover per table setup just for one or two nights.

valentines layout

how to add an extra area

What they did was add a new area called ‘Restaurant Valentines’ with the layout they required. Then in advanced settings they used the closed area function to close out their usual restaurant area for these dates. In addition to that, they made sure that the Valentines area was closed from now until the date they required it in February and then again after these dates until a date much further in the future.

use it again

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. It’s up to you.

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

As always, drop us an email on help@simpleerb.com if you require any further information or a nudge in the right direction!



TripAdvisor recently released a study showing the benefits of being engaged with your customers online. It highlighted that in cases where you were seen to interact and be ‘visible’, engagement through TripAdvisor increased. Over the last few years, like them or loathe them, TripAdvisor have become the go to place for customers to research restaurants before they book. It is therefore important to ‘take control’ of your public profiles on sites like TripAdvisor or on your Google business listing.

The report showed that customer engagement increased when owners took the time to respond to reviews and simpleERB already has a function that lets you do that quickly and easily, whilst filtering the reviews that make it into the public domain.

The simpleERB customer feedback tool, when enabled, lets you engage directly and sends your customers a link to review their experience at your restaurant. Their feedback then comes straight back to you and if it’s a good review, you can send them a link to your TripAdvisor, Facebook or other social profile so that they can leave the review there too. If you are unfortunate to get a bad review (it happens to us all!), you have the opportunity to sort this out directly with the customer, rather than to air your dirty laundry on a public website.

Setting it up takes seconds but could get you closer to your customers.

See how to set up customer feedback on our help centre and engage with your customers straight away!



We just wanted to give you a quick heads up on the updates we’ve made to simpleERB over the past few days.

We’ve already brought in offers and we’re working towards a few more things to complement this feature.

This week we’ve made a change to the mobile site. Although you can view the full site on mobile, we had a separate site at m.simpleerb.com which we called ‘waiter view’. This previously only listed bookings and could only be read, not amended. Now we’ve added a ‘walkin’ button so you can add bookings quickly to the diary from any mobile device. Ideal for ‘queue busting’!​​

Inside the main site, we’ve made some improvements to the bookings detail page. You can now find customers and auto fill their details based on phone number and email, not just name. It was getting too hard sifting through all the ‘Smiths’!

In reports you can now export customers based on which offer they have booked and in the reviews report, you can download your reviews as a .csv file. There’s also a ‘disappearing customers’ report that allows you to set a reminder to check the report to see which of your regulars may have stopped visiting your restaurant.

Pairing disappearing customers up with offers could allow you to entice them back with a special deal. It also keeps you in contact with your clientele.

We also launched our help centre which over time will give you help, hints and tips on how to get the most out of your simpleERB account.

We’ve added a few things under the hood to improve your experience and squashed some bugs that popped up.

More big things are coming and it’s down to our users that we are developing the things we are. We’ve spoken to a lot of you over the last few months and it’s really given us an understanding into the challenges which restaurants face as well as seeing how differently every restaurant is run!

Thanks again for your support and remember, if you’ve got any queries, feedback or suggestions, get in touch!



Help is now at hand with our newly launched simpleERB help centre.

Now, don’t get us wrong, we love talking to you and sending you emails. And who doesn’t love getting mail? That said, we bet that every time you need a bit of help on simpleERB, you wish that you didn’t have to find the time to compose and send us an email. That’s why we’ve started collecting a bunch of useful tips as well as questions we find we get asked often, and created the simpleERB help centre.

Having the answers to questions at your fingertips will help you get things done quicker. No longer will you have to refresh your mailbox waiting for our reply!

We’re always adding content and it’s encyclopaedic knowledge will grow as we add more features to the system. (some very exciting features are coming)

tips, tips, tips…

You may also have noticed some tips popping up in simpleERB. We realise that the product is growing and you might have missed some features, so just look on these messages as a friendly nudge to something we think will make your life easier and restaurant run more efficiently.

Like we said, we do still love getting old fashioned email, so please still drop us a message with any questions that you might have. It will make us feel loved!



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