Is Taking Reservations in Your Restaurant a Good Idea?
As you plan for your restaurant opening, there will be many things to consider about how you want to run your business. One of these is whether or not you want to accept reservations. There are several ways to go about doing this. You can have a policy of reservations only; a mix of reservation and walk-in customers; and no reservations accepted. Making the decision should be based on what will work best for your restaurant. There are pros and cons to taking reservations.
Here are several factors to consider that will help you make your decision.
Your Restaurant Theme
One of the key factors in whether reservations will be a success or a failure for your restaurant is your restaurant theme. Fine dining establishments are expected to have a reservations only policy. Reservations are also expected in places that are very popular and routinely have a high demand for seating, such as fast casual dining establishments. This allows people to call in to be sure that they will be able to get a table in the restaurant when they get there.
A second point to consider is your target audience. Reservations are typically used when you are trying to attract customers who tend to spend more on their meals. They expect the ambiance and the food to be worth the extra money they will be spending. Reservations can also be helpful if you are planning to host large groups. They can reserve space knowing that they will get the amount of seating they need, when they need it and be able to enjoy your restaurant. If you are trying to appeal to families and younger adults, you may find that reservations will not work. Studies show that most families that go out to eat do not make reservations first.
Drawbacks of Reservations
Reservations can have certain drawbacks that can be circumvented if handled properly. First is the issue of no-shows. If someone makes a reservation and then doesn't show up, that table is left empty and unused. This costs the restaurant lost revenue from the saved table. Asking for credit card information to hold a reservation and informing the customer that they will be charged for a no-show, can eliminate this problem. Also, with a reservations only policy you may be losing money that would be spent by potential walk-in customers. The best policy is save some tables for walk-ins and some for reservations as well.
It is also important to avoid overbooking when taking reservations. To achieve the goal of filling up your restaurant, you may want to take more reservations than you can handle, thinking that not everyone will show up. But if they do, your guests will be left waiting for tables, which is a big mistake.You need to have a system in place to keep track of reservations so that people do not have to wait long to get their tables, yet your tables are kept as busy as possible. That creates a win-win situation for you and your customers.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is trying to determine whether or not taking reservations will hurt or help your income potential. In some cases taking reservations will hinder the amount of walk-in customers you can handle. If you choose to use both options then it could take away from potential sales and even upset new potential customers. If you opt for reservations only you will need to know that you are getting enough reservations to keep a good revenue coming in.
In general, as a business owner, you will know ahead of time if the restaurant you are opening is one that will be more successful with reservations or without. For some themes it is expected that you will have to make reservations. For others, it would be useless to try and implement the process. When you factor in your business theme, your target market and how it will impact your income, you will find that the decision of whether or not to take reservations will be much easier for you to make.