OpenTable partnered with Kristen Hawley, founder of the popular Chefs + Tech newsletter, to create the How to Grow & Thrive in the Restaurant Business e-book, the ultimate guide to serving guests and growing your business at every phase of a restaurant’s lifecycle. We’re sharing excerpts from each stage, so follow along and download the whole guide here.
Customise your floor management tools to reflect your restaurant’s unique flow—decide when you want reservations, what you expect turn times to be and when you’ll accept large parties.
When your restaurant first opens—especially if you’re a first-time restaurateur—you’ll need to make some initial assumptions about your operations. What do you expect your traffic patterns to be, based on concept and location?
If you anticipate a big lunch business you may have shorter turn times, as business guests hurry back to the office. If you’re primarily a late-night destination, maybe you won’t serve weekday lunch and can save on food and labour costs there. Are you accepting reservations and running a waitlist at the same time?
All of these business decisions affect your operations. They affect how you staff your restaurants and how you set up your floor to accommodate guests. When you’re first getting started, draw your floor plan. What tables do you have? Where are they? How big are they? Create your initial settings based on when you want to accept online reservations and when you think guests will be in the neighbourhood, just stopping by.
The floor management tools on OpenTable’s Guest Center product can be customised to your individual restaurant, so you can set up the platform to reflect your floor plan exactly. You can also balance reservations, waitlist, and walk-ins and manage your flow according to your unique traffic patterns.
Tom George of London’s Som Saa made the decision to only accept reservations for groups of four to eight, and it’s become part of the restaurant’s overall feel—and strategy. “We’d like to have space to have friends, regulars, and locals down. That’s the fundamental reason,” he says. “If you’ve become a destination restaurant, the danger is that you become so booked out months ahead that people can’t come in and enjoy it. It also changes the expectation, because the sort of person who wants to reserve two months ahead is putting a weighty expectation on their experience. And we want to give them a great time and serve them great food with great service, but we’d like to keep it lighthearted and entertaining.”
Define special areas, such as bar and lounge seating, if you suspect the flow may be different in those spaces. The Guest Center inventory system can create combinations of tables that can be pushed together and will assign tables based on availability—the operator doesn’t even have to think about it. Next, define your shifts. Between which hours are you serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner? You can set capacity and pacing inside each shift if you know a lunch turn will be a half-hour shorter than a dinner one.
“We want restaurateurs to say, ‘This tool has created time for me to do what I love,’” says Jon Morin, OpenTable’s Guest Center Product Manager. Morin’s team uses knowledge from years of customer engagement to replicate the mind of a very savvy restaurateur. The product should facilitate the best possible version of the human interaction that happens throughout the dining experience.
“The OpenTable software allows us to manage our reservations, but also to manage wait times. We can give people a more accurate idea of how long they’re going to wait for a table,” says George. This translates, in turn, to happy guests with managed expectations.
Consider when you’ll welcome large parties and when you probably won’t be able to accommodate them, and set up your system accordingly. Pay attention to how guests book and how long your turns are during different days and times in the first few months after opening, so you can continue to tweak and optimise these settings.
Looking to increase efficiency to serve more guests and boost profits? Download the guide and visit page 27 for more opportunities.
Photos courtesy of Som Saa and The Woodford