6 Reasons Why Reservations are Bad for Restaurants

Sponsored by Nowait

Even the least knowledgeable consumer understands the value of a restaurant reservation if they want to control their dining experience. However, for restaurants the value is less clear as you analyze the complications and complexity that reservations deliver.

We’ve all been there – an empty table while other guests are waiting for theirs. It’s the ugliest issue in the management of a reservations program. Yes, program! If you take reservations, you are implementing a complicated set of processes that cost both time and money.

The No Show is the worst of those costs because it damages your bottom line and your reputation. Guests that are waiting for tables may have their own reservation delayed due to that empty table or they just see a spot and feel frustration that it isn’t seated.

We thought we’d identify a few other reasons that might make you rethink how you manage seating your tables.

Reservation policies cause guest confrontations

Empty tables can infuriate waiting guests in your foyer. Add to that the various prohibitions we include in any of our reservations calls -- please be here before your reservation time, we will need a credit card to hold your table, etc. Any of these can flair up the most patient of guests. There is no upside in holding the guest accountable, and we only make other waiting guests frustrated.

Slower table turns/increased dwell times

This is the metric that quantifies the cost of waiting on a reservation. Restaurants that use call ahead seating or other seating management tools see lower turn times and less frustrated guests.

When you seat who is there and ready, you greatly reduce the time it takes to reseat a turned table. With reservations you have an appointed time. Unless guests are there exactly before their time the table will stand empty for some time after their reservation.

We’ve all seen what a couple of tardy reservations can do to the flow of an entire shift. This is why high volume, casual dining abandoned them a long time ago. Dwell times matter and maximizing every minute of your highest volume period matters to long term success.

Admin nightmare that requires expensive management software

Let’s not kid ourselves. When you open the door to a reservation service, you are immediately adding labor. Everybody thinks, “Oh, our managers have time to take care of this.” They are wrong.

This is especially true if you do well with reservations. The more ressies you accept, the more labor it costs to accept, schedule, follow-up and seat guests. A successful program might even require a third party service.

In the end, unless you are a famous chef like Thomas Keller, your restaurant doesn’t require exact numbers of attendees to function. Train your hosts and fill your foyer or bar with guests patient enough to wait for your food.

It creates two classes of guest

This is subtle thing, but very real. Guests with a reservation arrive when they are ready based on their reservation and aren’t required (we hope) to wait. Guests without them just see other guests arrive and go straight to a table. That clear separation of guest experience has caused more than its fair share of confrontation at a host stand. By not taking reservations, you democratize the wait.

Creates a temptation to overbook

Ask any owner if he has ever overbooked his room and you will get firm denials -- which is perfect proof that it happens. Especially, if you have a No Show issue in your area.

It’s no secret that people make reservations at multiple places and then choose where they want to go. It’s absolutely horrible, but also completely understandable why a guest would do it. So it’s really self-defense if an operator overbooks. The problem, of course, is the consequences. There is NOTHING worse than a guest who has a reservation waiting for their table. Alas, that’s the outcome of overbooking. Who wants that stress?

We live in an on-demand world

This is a new reality for our industry. A ton of services are provided on demand through mobile and other device activations, but people will always just show up at our restaurants… right?

Not anymore. With the rise of mobile on-demand services like food delivery, local search and mobile ordering, your guests are increasingly expecting to interact with you via their smartphones.

When it comes to the post-reservation world, this is a major plus. Prior to on-demand services, guests had to appear at your host stand or maybe call ahead. Now they can access your wait list via their smartphone, get real-time updates, and communicate directly with the host. Services like those from Nowait make sure that guests that are present are seated first and ensure that your dwell times are minimized.

And the best part? Your guests want services like Nowait. More than 80% of restaurant guests have said they prefer the experience of on-demand dining to making a reservation.

Its not that your guests necessarily want to plan ahead. They just don't want to wait for tables. And who can blame them?