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No shows can be especially harmful for restaurants operating on a limited capacity and recovering from the pandemic. The latest research from Zonal reported one in seven bookings become no-shows – and it’s costing the industry an estimated £18bn a year.
Hospitality businesses have tried to tackle this in different ways, mostly by asking for deposits at booking. Other solutions floated around include ticketing for meals, no-show fees (some restaurants have recently raised their fees to protect staffing and account for rising costs of goods), overbooking, taking credit card details and deducting cash for no-shows, reminder communications, naming and shaming and late cancellation fees.
Having a restaurant booking system can assist you in putting these measures in place. It’s even more useful to have a system which takes online bookings as well as in-person or over the phone. Figures from SinglePlatform show that 92 per cent of people searched for a restaurant online in the last six months. What’s more, Google Adwords research shows 20m “restaurants near me” searches made on Google every month worldwide.
Here are ten of the best restaurant booking systems for your small business. Features that help reduce no-shows are highlighted in bold.
Best for: Restaurants who want a low-cost option from a well-known brand.
Organise shift summariesAutomate reservation remindersCustomise turn timesLets customer see real-time availability through your websiteSaves customer details in guest history and provides notes that help you cater to the customerA well-known brand that customers (and potential customers) trust
Basic: £19 a month. Reservations, guest database, tags and notes and digital marketing.
Core: £179 a month. All Basic plus table management and an in-house and online waitlist.
Pro: £299 a month. All Basic and Core plus automated email campaigns and staff scorecards.
Best for: Restaurants who offer takeaway and delivery as well as table service.
Add rules to stop tables and times being sold incorrectlyAllocate restaurant sections to staff members and track performanceAdvanced planning for fully customisable run sheetsDeter no-shows by taking deposits or securing their card details before they dine. Alternatively, you can take the full payment at the point of bookingSend reservation reminders by SMSTrack your bookings so that you can find out where they’re coming from and which advertising campaigns are working
RD Lite: Free for 30 days, then £49 a month. Create, edit or cancel, availability and tables, booking list view, commission-free.
RD Connect: £89 a month. SMS notifications, built-in CRM system, reporting, group central reservations.
RD Express: £119 a month. Yield management tool, customised branding and widget.
RD Pro: £169 a month. iPad/smartphone app, multiple users logged in at one time, email notifications in your branding.
RD Ultimate: £245 a month. Unlimited ResDiary transactions, process non-refundable deposits and payments in advance.
These all come with a £99 + VAT fee for set-up and the initial online training.
Best for: Pop-ups, supper clubs and firms who offer tasting, tours and unique events.
Check in and scan reservations for speed and ease with any deviceNotes, tags, automated waitlist and notificationsSell tickets from Instagram or Facebook profile Two-way text messagingPartnered through search so more people find you
The price points are broken into three and have varying features – though Tock promises that there are no hidden fees.
Essential: 2.5 per cent per transaction plus $0.49 (35p) per ticket. This is for one-off for general admission events. Has a custom website widget, mobile app ticket scanning, guest notes, automated email reminders and a post-event guest feedback survey.
Premium: 3 per cent per transaction plus $0.99 (72p) per ticket. This one’s more suitable for businesses with regular events that need reserved seating, special tables or advanced customer management. It has everything in the Essential package, plus reserved seating tickets, variable ticket prices, discount codes, waitlists, text message reminders and email support
Enterprise: a bespoke package – call to make further enquiries. For large-scale, multi-location events needing custom integrations, dedicated support and advanced tools. Everything in Premium, custom integrations, dedicated accounts manager, data export, 24/7 phone and email support.
Best for: Restaurants who want detailed data and analytics.
Notify guests when reservation is available to reduce no-showsAuto-confirm reservations by SMSDinner insights and guest surveysCustomer insights and custom reportingMobile waitlists – allow customers to safely join remotelySpecialised marketing promotions and experiences
Basic: £133 a month. Reservations, waitlist and table management, 24/7 report and standard reporting.
Pro: £249 a month. 1:1 onboarding and training, customisable guest messaging, POS integration.
Enterprise: £899 a month. Unlimited custom reports, API access and custom reporting.
Best for: Restaurants who want integrations in their booking system.
Reservation, waitlist and to-goNo cover feesIntegration with POSOther integrations including Grubhub and EatStreetReduce no-shows with live status updates and accurate guest seating timesBroaden reach through Yelp Advertising
Standard: $249 (£183) a month. Unlimited covers, online waitlisting, advanced SMS, two-way texting, floorplan management, basic reservation management. Three-month free trial.
Plus: $299 (£219) a month. Everything in Standard plus best-in-class reservation management, digital guestbook, POS integration. Three-month free trial.
Enterprise: Bespoke price. Everything in Plus as well as Punchh integration, app integration, Olo integration.
Best for: Restaurants who want to try a booking system without the commitment.
Has an offer to join now and get three months free on Pro+Restaurant discovery and booking platformNew customised page visible on all devicesPropose special offers to increase off-peak bookingsAutomatic confirmation emails and SMS, guest reliability score and credit card imprint Free training and 7/7 customer support
For both packages, there is a pay per use fee of £2, based on cover booked and honoured.
Free: No time commitment. Intelligent reservation management software features are all there (electronic reservation diary, standard emails to confirm or cancel reservations, analytics page, customer review management)
Pro+: £125 a month. Comes with extra restaurant management optimisation (inventory set up by table, e-mail and SMS reconfirmation, digitalised floorplan) plus management and customer loyalty tools (free Google Reserve bookings, export, duplicate and import your customer database, easily create and send email campaigns, easily test and monitor campaign results).
Best for: Restaurants that focus on guest engagement and experience.
Automate operations across entire guest journey – online reservations, table management and marketingIn-built marketing and CRM toolsPersonalise your customer experience Online booking widgetSmart table suggestionsPersonalise guests with how many visits, no-shows and cancellations they’ve had – what their spending habits are like and dietary requirements
You can bag a free trial with no need to hand over credit card details.
Basic: $119 (£87) a month. Booking widget and waitlist, official Google and TripAdvisor partner, time-slot optimisation, email confirmations, SMS customisation, advanced shift planning, table optimisation, post dining surveys for guests, basic daily reports.
Pro: $209 (£153) a month. All Basic features plus custom design, time-slot discounts and an online ordering and digital menu. Custom email templates and builder, guest segmentation, marketing automation.
Enterprise: Price on request. All Pro features, plus API access and integrations and custom integrations.
Best for: Restaurants who serve international customers.
One-click table assignment, restaurant occupancy trackingWaitlist – send guests a text when their table is readyPOS integrationAvailable in nine languagesEquitably assign waiting staff to tablesReduce no-shows by requesting reservation deposits or charging cancellation fees
The first two weeks are free and you can cancel anytime, with no need to hand over credit card details.
Ordini: $29 (£21) a month. Online ordering, order pacing, no set-up fee, text and SMS included, online ordering widget.
Piccolo: $39 (£29) a month. 200 parties per month, reservation, waitlist and floor management, online reservations, reservation deposits, comprehensive analytics reports, free Hostme SMS app, waitlist widget for websites)
Mezzo: $99 (£73) a month. Unlimited parties, shared guestbook across locations.
Grande: $149 (£109) a month. POS integration, custom branding of restaurant page and emails, floor design services and consulting hours for setup.
Best for: Restaurants who want a flexible booking system.
No commissionOnline reservations, delivery and collectionsIntegrated marketing moduleAnalytics, sales and communication toolsPre-order functionUnlimited free bookings, no per booking or per guest fee
Diary Lite: £69 a month. Standard menu, standard reports, up to three users, special offers and promotions.
Diary Pro: £129 a month. Table management, floor plan, block tables, waiting list, analytical report, block tables.
Diary Ultimo: £199 a month. Online credit card payments, email marketing, SMS marketing, push notifications, unlimited users, ePOS integrations.
A 30-day free trial is available on all of the packages.
Best for: Restaurants who want a booking system that’s easy to use.
Accept pre-paymentsGuest notifications by email and SMSFacebook bookings – reservation button and messenger botEmail marketingControl multiple restaurants from one accountInteractive reporting dashboard to improve performance
Standard: £69 a month. 150 bookings monthly (best for small restaurants), max 315 reservations, reservation timeline, reservation floorplan, advance prepayments, reporting dashboard, email notifications, SMS notifications.
Premium: £119 a month. Same as Standard with unlimited bookings (best for busy restaurants).
A 14-day free trial is available on both packages.
Which restaurant booking system is best for my small business?
Find the right booking system for your restaurant is important, so it’s a decision not to be rushed. Make sure the package you go for fits in with your cash flow and has features that’d be beneficial to your business. Go for that over the cheapest or the most popular, for example.
Remember to have a solid booking policy in place in case any disputes arise between you and a customer. Include your policies on no-shows and late cancellations as well as how long your table will be held until they’re declared a no-show and how much any incurred fee will be.
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