November 25 2019,
The largest trend the Zonal liveRES team has observed within the last 12 months has been the shift toward creating ‘experiences’ for customers when dining out. Rather than simply reserving a table online, operators are looking at a raft of new ways to enhance the guest experience and offer the flexibility customers demand. New solutions such as order and pay at the table offer new revenue streams for operators and deliver an innovative in-store experience.
As a result, there has been an increase in the demand for order and pay apps with booking functionality. We’ve also noticed a reduction in the use of third-party sites for bookings, as operators realise the benefit of retaining their data and commission fees. Subsequently, this has led to an increase in the number of enquiries from operators for a white-labelled, fixed price option for reservations to regain control of costs and consumer insight.
While online bookings continue to be most preferred choice of making a reservation, telephone bookings shouldn't be forgotten. The number of requests for liveRES Bookings by Phone, our automated telephone booking system, from customers has risen. Venues can capture and convert missed calls into bookings, as customers can use their telephone keypad to make a booking without the need to speak to a member of staff.
Operators understand that even though their customers are increasingly using online booking methods either via a website or app, there is still a place for phone reservations too, as well as walk-ins and wait lists. So fully integrating different booking channels is absolutely essential to providing a seamless customer experience.
Being able to access rich, real-time data by linking a reservation and table management system to an EPoS system, provides operators with accurate in-session availability and enables them to maximise yield throughout their whole venue.
With its real-time integration to Zonal’s EPoS, operators can achieve just this.
Accessing data is also another must have. Being able to access every customer touchpoint with your venue - such as booking, ordering, paying, giving feedback and redeeming vouchers - is essential to understanding consumer behaviour for personalised communications and targeting. This can only be achieved through tightly integrated technology.
Recent GO Technology research from CGA and Zonal revealed that online bookings have overtaken telephone bookings, and as such, it is essential that operators of every size are able to accommodate this preferred booking channel. However, the rise in third-party booking platforms has led to brands being unable to build meaningful relationships with consumers and is said to be one of the key reasons for the £16 billion a year cost of no-shows.
As an integrated technology provider, Zonal helps operators to build meaningful relationships with consumers with its liveRES solution. liveRES enables operators to send automated reminder emails and SMS giving consumers the choice to cancel or amend their table reservation prior their booking, immediately freeing up the slot for another booking to be made.
Another way to optimise efficiency with liveRES is by accessing previous data to see what days and times no-shows were most common, allowing operators to over-adjust capacity ensuring no tables are left empty.
Automation will be the focus for reservation systems as we see it becoming essential functionality. liveRES wants to make sure operators can capture and auto-confirm large group bookings through the table management system.
The misuse of vouchers is also common for many operators. To eliminate this problem, liveRES will be able to check vouchers in advance of the visit and automatically apply these to the bill.
With AI being a growing trend and more accessible to operators, we’re expecting standard automated answering services to become more conversational, multi-lingual and even able to answer questions.
We will also be extending our product capabilities so that guests can book and self-serve regularly, for example, booking rooms, arrange meetings and organise even bigger parties.
Operators will move towards creating authentic relationships with customers, so they feel valued and part of a special club. Branded order and pay apps enable operators to create unique customer experiences from menus, to booking a table, ordering and paying for food and drink as well as special offers and sending personalised feedback based on what the customer ate.
Charging customers to sign up to become part of a ‘club’ like the Amazon Prime approach where consumers are part of a community and receive special offers and unique communications is becoming a trend amongst operators. For example, club members may be offered priority booking on special occasions and peak times, such as Mother’s Day, and a relevant, personalised offer, such as a free bottle of white Pinot Grigio because that’s what they always order.
Giving venue managers total visibility of all events and bookings in one place will be key in 2020, allowing them to see how busy the restaurant will be and make the necessary operational plans.