Can an industry statistic go from 20% to 46% in just two years? According to certain predictors, this is the case for online restaurant reservations. While in 2014 the average of reservations that were made online versus by phone was 20%, experts predict that number to quickly rise to about 46% in 2016. It's no wonder more restaurants are paying attention to their online reservation systems.
The first place people go to make an online reservation is the restaurant's own website. Most people already have made up their mind on where they want to go and so they go directly to the restaurant's page. While some restaurants might go with a simple form, a majority now turn to third party software providers that can import the reservations into a fully integrated front-of-house (FOH) system. These companies create widgets, or coding, that can then be inserted into the restaurant's webpage and connects them to the FOH system.
Another place you can find widgets are on restaurant Facebook pages. While this isn't quite as well known or obvious to many customers, it is becoming more and more prevalent. Facebook makes it easy to connect and create a Reservations tab on the Facebook page that once again ties into the FOH system.
A common place for people to sometimes book a table is through travel or review sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Priceline. Restaurants need to be aware that...
- Yelp owns SeatMe, Priceline owns OpenTable, and TripAdvisor owns LaFourchette (unknown to the U.S. market currently, but soon to be coming).
- Due to this, it is rumored these sites are moving to block their competitors from posting widgets on their sites.
Restaurants also have to consider their neighborhoods and clientele. If a restaurant is located in an area that gets few tourists or visitors, then there really is no need to have a widget on a travel site or to pay a high cover fee for a person unlikely to return. Locals and regulars will generally go directly to a restaurant website or be fans on the Facebook page.
The internet and technology are ever changing, so when it comes right down to it, focus on where you have control —your own website.