Running a Restaurant: A Reservation System

If you’re running a restaurant, there’s one state you always want your restaurant to be in: busy. You want lines out the door and customers aching to get a taste of your signature meal. Of course, customers don’t like waiting outside (especially here in Florida; it rains a lot). So to stay busy and not keep customers waiting, a reservation is one heck of a useful tool. For those looking to add the exclusivity and prestige of requiring a reservation, here are some tips:

-Once the decision to take reservations has been made, develop a reservation policy, stick to it, and train your staff on it, especially those answering the phones. The policy could be that reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance, or whatever you feel is the most appropriate for your business.

-Give yourself and your staff the tools they need to take reservations, such as a reservation book. You could also step it up and use a computer to keep track of reservations, or an online service as there are a few out there to use.

If you do traditional reservations (by phone), keep these ideas in mind:

-Always keep one table open for special guests, like the local restaurant critic, a financial backer, or (if you’re lucky) a celebrity who happens to be in the area. With this table available, those people who you want to impress are not waiting too long.

-Get a phone number when making a reservation. That way you can call and confirm that they’re still coming. Remember: any reservation that is not filled is lost revenue, so if they’re not coming, open the table and give it to someone else.

-Have plenty of phone lines. The last thing you want is for a customer to be waiting while you, your chef, or another employee is busy chatting up the lines.

-If you prefer a more casual experience, try offering call-ahead seating, where a customer calls and asks to be added to the waiting list. You can then decide if you’re going to hold a table for them or if you’ll pass them if their name is called before they arrive.

Of course, in this world of new technology, there’s always the route of online reservations. If you choose this route, you don’t even need a fancy website or program (though I’m sure they’re out there). Instead, you can set up a separate email account through your restaurant’s website for reservations and check it daily. Make sure that your reservation policy is easy to find and understand, and it is also recommended that the email is a reservation REQUEST, not a guarantee. Again, giving a time frame (like make the reservation 24 hours in advance) will save the headache and allow you to send notification that their reservation is accepted or offer alternative times or nights.

No matter what you do, remember that your goal is to serve the customer’s needs. If taking reservations helps, then keep it up. If it doesn’t, don’t do it, plain and simple. And put me down for tonight at 7pm. I’ve got a hot date.

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