The Pros and Cons of Taking Restaurant Reservations

The Pros and Cons of Restaurant Reservations

Restaurant hostess taking reservations
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Reservations. To take them or not to take them. That is a question that has plagued many restaurants over the years. Some establishments only seat by reservation. That is, they are so busy, they don’t have room for walk-ins. Other restaurants don’t take any reservations.

Many fall somewhere in between. There is no right or wrong answer for whether to take reservations. It all depends on the type of restaurant concept, the size of your dining room and the impression you want to give customers. Reservations are often synonymous with fine dining (but not always). After all, when was the last time you had to make reservations at your local diner for lunch? Keep in mind that your decision to accept or reject reservations will affect the way the public views your restaurant.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Restaurant Reservations

The most obvious benefit of accepting restaurant reservations is that you know exactly how many people you need to feed at which times. This allows you to plan better in the kitchen and staff appropriately. The drawbacks of restaurant reservations are that you limit the number of walk-ins you can feed, thereby limiting your sales potential. 

You can circumvent this problem by leaving at least a few tables empty, for walk-ins. Another drawback is if a reservation stands you up. No-shows cost restaurants money. Many restaurants require a credit card to hold a table and charge it a set fee if the patrons don’t show up.

Call Ahead Seating

A growing trend for many restaurants, especially fast-casual chains is call-ahead seating. This a blend of a traditional reservation and a walk in. Call ahead seating happens when a customer calls while on the way to the restaurant, to have their name placed on a waiting list. This way, their wait time is reduced, once they arrive at the restaurant.

Avoid Overbooking Reservations

If you do choose to accept reservations, be careful of overbooking. It is tempting to fill up every table on a Friday night, as a way to assure a busy night. However, this is just asking for trouble. If a table is late showing up or sits longer than normal, it can throw a chink into the entire restaurant reservation chain. Suddenly you have people showing up with a seven o’clock reservation, who have to wait for their table. Nothing will anger customers faster than having to wait for a reservation.

Tracking Restaurant Reservations

To help you keep your restaurant reservations organized, there are many POS systems that can help you track them. There is also many online reservations systems, those these can be more money than they are worth. An old fashion notebook with a hand-drawn chart can also work, as long as the person in charge understands what they are doing.

No matter how you choose to take reservations, have a designated staff person be in charge of the process. If only one or two people are responsible for taking reservations, less likely hood of a reservation being “lost” or a table being double booked.