In the vexed question of how to deal with restaurant noshows there are two arguments.

One of them goes like this:  theatres, cinemas, airlines, holiday companies…. none of them give consumers a refund if the customer can’t make it. Why should restaurants be different? Why should they not charge at least something up front and keep it if the customer does not turn up?

Some restaurateurs have started doing this and swear by it. For example, Joff Day of  Ben’s Cornish Kitchen, Marazion, says: “Having the ability to take deposits for online bookings via the simpleERB booking system has eliminated no shows – the bane of most restaurants.”

Others think differently, like the restaurateur Keith McNally, who says: “Although we take credit card numbers for parties of five or more at my restaurants, we never actually charge the customer for not showing up. Of course, we tell them in advance they’ll be charged for not showing up, but it’s difficult to have the heart to do it. Even, as in my case, when you don’t have a heart to begin with.”

This is an emotional argument. There is a more hard headed rationale, exemplified by Sabato Sagaria of Union Square Hospitality Group, who says,  “If you’re penalizing people with a cancellation fee, it’s also probably an effective way of cancelling the relationship in the long term. If the first interaction is making the reservation and the second interaction is the cancellation fee, chances are there won’t be a third interaction.”

So who is right? Which course is right for you and your restaurant and your noshows?

Fortunately there is some math that can help us here. Business consultants have the concept of “LTV” or to give it its full title, “Customer Life Time Value”. This is quite simple, it is the “total amount of money that you will earn from a customer”. To be contrasted with “the amount of money you will make from a single visit”.

The opponents of charging deposits or cancellation fees for now shows argue that annoying a loyal customer who doesn’t turn up by actually charging them a cancellation fee or keeping a deposit costs you money in the long run as there is a good chance they won’t come back.

This is where you need to start to categorise your customers. And for this you either need a really good memory or you need a “Restaurant CRM” (Customer Relationship Management System) like simpleERB. Of course it makes sense NOT to charge a customer who has been a dozen times in the past 12 months and is likely to keep coming. But what about someone who has never been before?

Here you need to look at the data. How many “first time visitors” become regulars?

Let’s take an example: say your typical spend is £/$/€20 per person, your average party size is 3 and your gross profit before staff and fixed costs is 70%  – then a no show costs you £/$/€42 and your profit (or rather contribution to costs) would be £/$/€42 if they turned up.

If you have taken a deposit of 50% or have a cancellation fee of 50% , then you will get  50% x 3 x £/$/€20 = £/$/€30 from that party if they “no show”.

You then run the risk that they are so annoyed with you that they never return.

What you have lost is the “LTV”.

Let’s plug in some assumptions and say that there is a 1/20 chance that they come a second time and a 1/60 chance that they come a third time and a 1/100 chance they come a 4th time. The expected LTV for that customer (in gross profit terms) is :

£/$/€  (42/20) + (42/60) + (42/100)

Which adds up to £/$/€ 2.92

Not a lot!

Certainly not enough to make you give up the deposit / cancellation fee of  £/$/€30.

In fact for it to be worth while for a restaurant to forego the deposit / cancellation fee the expected LTV has to be more than £/$/€ 30.

That needs the likelihood of repeat visits to be very high. In fact the chances need to be something like:

1/3 chance of returning again, 1/6 chance of a 3rd visit, 1/9 chance of a 4th visit, 1/12 chance of  a 5th visit, 1/18 chance of 6th visit etc. etc.

This gives an LTV of something like £/$/€ 40.

Is this the kind of repeat visit pattern you see in your first time visitors?

You don’t need to do all the calculations , just asking your self the question, “Do one in three of my first time visitors come back a second time?” is enough.

If the answer is an unequivocal “Yes” then you should pay attention to the argument that “Enforcing a deposit / cancellation fee policy will hurt my business”.

If the answer is “No”. Then you are almost certainly better off enforcing a deposit / cancellation fee for noshows.

I will deal with the difference in consumer expectations around deposits and “held credit cards”,  the legal and technical differences and the PR consequences in an upcoming blog post.

Get the one stop solution to your NoShow problems here



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.



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!



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.



Christmas. The dreaded ‘c’ word. Organising large bookings, managing deposits, dealing with no shows. It can be tough running a restaurant in December. Luckily, simpleERB has some neat features and clever hacks which can help make Christmas a little easier for you.

Make sure you’ve got the right availability on your booking widget

The simpleERB booking widget defaults to allow bookings for six months in advance. This means customers can book dates in December NOW! Get ahead of the game and make sure you’ve got any closed dates or alternative opening hours set up so you don’t take bookings you can’t accommodate.

You can amend your widget availability in the configure widget settings or set your whole diary up for Christmas using closed or partial open days.

If you have split sittings, you can enter multiple opening times for the date in ‘partial open times’.

Is your table layout different at Christmas?

If it is, there is a way for simpleERB to help you. Create a second table layout in your simple settings and call it something like Christmas 2017. Add the tables as they will be set out in December or on a particular occasion and then in advanced settings, using closed areas, close this area off from now until December and again after December. Then in December, close your normal layout so that bookings aren’t taken on those tables.

There’s a guide on how to do this in more detail here.

Take deposits

Deposits are a great way of ensuring that customers attend their booking so you avoid the dreaded no show which although unwelcome all year round, is particularly problematic over the busy Christmas period. We have customers already using our deposit system who have said the no shows have been virtually eliminated. Deposits are flexible and you can set specific amounts based on date or time and party size, you could charge per cover or per table and you can also set deadlines for customers to pay by. All of this is done securely and PCI compliant so that you don’t have card numbers or payment details lying around or visible to staff. It also usefully helps out your cash flow!

 

Booking reminders

Booking reminders are a simple way to remind your staff about certain details that they may need to pass on to customers or be aware of when entering bookings. You simply choose the dates you want your message to show and then when a member of staff adds a booking on a certain date, they’ll be prompted with date specific info. You might want to advise customers that on a certain date you are only serving a certain menu, or you could use it to remind staff to get an email address for the customers. This is an easy and flexible way to remind your staff about the little extras which happen at Christmas so that everyone is on the same page.

Create offers

We see more and more restaurants offering a normal a la carte menu as well as a Christmas menu in December and you might want to give customers the choice when they book so you can get a rough gauge on how many turkeys that the kitchen brigade may need to prep. Setting up offers is easy and like most simpleERB features, it can be used to fit around certain dates and times. You could show specific offers and price levels on some days and then maybe an increased price on a Friday. Our offers guide is here but this is a great way of giving your customer an option when booking and letting them know that things might be a bit different in December from when they normally book.

Get a step ahead of the rush and let simpleERB be your little helper this Christmas.

 



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.”



Outdoor weather is upon us and we’ve been daydreaming through this list of 30 must visit beer gardens in the UK over the past few days. Plans are being made and over the next few months we are hoping there’s enough sunshine to sample at least one or two al fresco afternoons in the Great British pubs.

If you’re lucky enough to own a restaurant (or a pub) with an outdoor area, simpleERB can help you make the most of spreading your bookings around.

We’ve found a few cases where some of our users haven’t added their outdoor sections as a separate area on their table layout. Usually because they can’t guarantee the weather. A fair point. However, simpleERB allows you to close areas off for certain time periods so that no bookings will ever go into your diary for outdoor tables during the winter months. You’ll find area configuration in the advanced column of your settings menu.

If you prefer just allocating tables in your outdoor area on an ad hoc basis, you can use the configure widget settings to close your outdoor tables from online booking. This leaves them free to be booked in by you or your staff as and when the weather allows.

simpleERB has been built to let you be as flexible as possible. It lets you control exactly what you want to allocate so that customers don’t book when and where you don’t want them to.

If you need any further info on how simpleERB can help manage different restaurant areas, don’t hesitate to drop us an email on help@simpleerb.com



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!



%d bloggers like this: