What to Ask When Buying a Restaurant Reservation System
May 9, 2023
A reservation management system helps run smooth shifts and turn tables faster. Here’s what to ask before you buy.
You’ve decided to implement a reservation system at your restaurant — or maybe you’re interested in moving to a new platform. Whatever the reason, it’s important to do your due diligence and make sure the software you select serves the needs of your restaurant.
Before making a purchase, you likely have a few demos set up to explore your options. Use the list of questions below to get the most out of your conversations.
11 Questions to Ask About Reservations Software
These prompts act as a guide for collecting as much information as you can about each of your choices. At the end of your calls, you should have a clear understanding of the product, the features and benefits, and whether it will work for your restaurant.
1. How will this reservations system help me manage my front of house more effectively?
A good reservations system will accept online bookings through multiple sources and help you manage those bookings without relying on manual processes like pen and paper.
If you want a fully integrated product, look for a solution that offers reservations, waitlist, table management, and guest management all-in-one. This will keep your front of house completely in sync without needing to use multiple platforms.
2. Does this system offer direct reservations or are they booked through a marketplace?
In the restaurant reservations landscape, there are two main types of software available: direct booking and through a marketplace. Marketplace solutions like OpenTable act as third-party partners. You’ll pay a fee per cover, which will vary depending on how the reservation was made (booked on your own website vs. through the OpenTable website or app).
Alternatively, there are direct booking options like BentoBox. With this model, your restaurant keeps all the revenue when guests book a reservation on your website.
3. Does this system also include table management to make it easier to run my restaurant?
Empty tables mean less revenue. It’s imperative to maximize cover counts to ensure peak profits are realized. Table management gives you the ability to see what's happening in your restaurant at a glance. You can optimize table turnover rates, control server/shift management, and track table states in real time. Many reservations software options come with built-in table management, but some don’t. Make sure you’re clear on that feature during your demo.
4. Are there capacity controls in place to manage table inventory and prevent overbooking?
You’ll want the ability to adjust the hours or shifts that reservations are accepted. Maybe you’ll be closed for an upcoming private event or holiday — or perhaps you want a set amount of tables held each evening for walk-ins. Ask your sales rep about this capability for a full picture of what’s possible in the system.
5. How does the system handle waitlists or walk-ins?
Not all reservation systems include waitlist features. Waitlist management software that’s built into your reservations system is great to have for restaurants. It streamlines the table management for your front of house staff and lets them manage reservation parties and walk-in parties through one interface. A single integrated platform also gives you the ability to quote more accurate wait times and provide a better guest experience.
6. Is the system easy to learn and use for my staff?
Ease of use and an intuitive interface are critical features to look for in a reservations software. A system that has a good design, was built with functionality in mind, and keeps information organized yet simple should be a priority.
7. Does the system send confirmation notifications or reminders? Does it allow for two-way text communication with my guests?
This feature helps you reduce no-shows and maximize bookings. Diners can confirm, modify, or cancel their booking by SMS prior to their reservation. Some platforms allow for two-way SMS messaging, which means that not only can restaurants request confirmation on reservations but guests can also reply to the text if they’re running late, and the system will update to make that clear for the host stand.
8. Is there a Reserve with Google integration?
Google is a great place for new diner acquisition — it’s far more powerful and universal of a search engine than all of the reservations marketplaces combined. A Reserve with Google integration is a key feature that you’ll want in your reservations system.
9. What does the booking experience look like for guests?
Understanding what the process of booking a reservation will be like for diners is good to know so that your front of house staff can answer any questions. Most platforms have guests enter their party size, date, and time and then select an available slot. After that, typically personal information will be captured like name, phone number, and email address.
10. Can diners specify any dietary preferences or special requests while making a reservation?
A visit notes field is something to keep in mind when selecting a reservations system. This allows both the guest or operator to enter details like seating requests, dietary preferences, and special occasions and tie the information directly to the reservation.
11. Does the system have guest profiles that track my history with a guest across visits?
Whether through guest profile notes or tags, keeping tabs of specific information on diners is a great feature — especially for your most valued customers.
Have a guest who loves a specific red wine or always has a specific seating preference? The ability to make a note of this and keep it logged for future reservations is key for creating fantastic guest experiences. Many systems offer tagging functionality that can be applied to bookings to designate VIPs, first-time visitors, birthdays, and anniversaries.
In your demo, ask if you’ll own your guest book data (which you should).
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