How customer behaviour and preferences change across age and gender in pubs and restaurants

If you’re over 55, special offers and deals are likely to get your attention. If you’re between 18-34 it’s most likely to be the drinks menu. Zonal’s GO Technology research explains how customer behaviour and preferences change depending on age and gender.

Pub and restaurant customers are a diverse bunch, but there are some interesting patterns when you start crunching the data: different groups of people have very different expectations when it comes to the booking and dining experience.

According to Zonal’s GO Tech research, there are distinct differences between differing age groups. Older customers are much more likely to check a pub or restaurant’s website before visiting the premises, with 34% of over-55s looking for special offers and deals compared to just 26% of 18 to 34s. The pattern repeats with booking information – 44% compared to 32% – and location information, which was required by 32% of over-55s compared to 22% of 18 to 34s.

Some things are universal, however. Across every demographic, the reasons for using a restaurant’s website are ranked in the same order of importance: the menu first (88%), followed by opening times (63%), booking information (38%), offers and deals (31%) and the drinks menu (29%). If your website people aren’t making it really easy for people to get those bits of information, you might want to have a word: when it comes to the biggest frustration with restaurant websites, 44% of people across all demographics say that it’s the lack of a viewable food menu. Difficulty in using or accessing the website is second (20%), followed by lack of booking information (12%), not listing opening times (10%) and not having a viewable drinks menu (7%).

That’s not to say that there aren’t some demographic differences in that data. The drinks menu is much more important to younger consumers: 41% of 18 to 34s check the drinks menu before visiting compared to just 21% of over-55s.

Points to remember:

  • Over 55 are more interested in special offers and menus than any other age group
  • Older customers are much more likely to check a pub or restaurant’s website before visiting, so make sure all of the information they are looking for is clear and easy to find
  • Website features and frustrations are common across all demographics: lack of a menu is the biggest sin
  • Some information is more important to specific groups: older consumers want location info and younger ones are looking for a drinks menu
  • The most important thing about data is what you do with it – where you invest your valuable time, IT budget and marketing effort.

Discover more about how Zonal’s loyalty management system gives you the tools to build smart loyalty programmes that reward your most loyal customers and encourage increased spend.

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5 top tips on how to successfully manage party bookings at your restaurant

Whether it’s a rehearsal dinner, hen do, or Christmas party, hosting a group booking at your restaurant, pub or bar is a chance to attract many first-time diners, giving you a valuable opportunity to make a lasting impression.

It goes without saying, that group bookings are an extremely effective way to fill your venue and add significant additional revenue – if done right.

We’ve pulled together five top tips on how to make it more memorable for your guests, whilst highlighting the best that your restaurant has to offer:

Give your party bookers enquiry options 

45% of consumers prefer to make their booking online – compared to 20% who prefer the telephone. So, ensure your party planning experience is consistent on both booking channels – give your event organisers the option to select a range of dates on your online booking widget – just as they would on the phone.

It’s hard enough trying to get a group of people together, so why not make it easier for them by providing a range of date options if one particular date is not available.  It gives them the opportunity to enquire for another day and ensures you don’t miss out on large party revenue.

Party packages and extras 

With the shift towards customers seeking ‘experiences’ in the last 12 months, diners now want more than just a meal. So why not make it special and upsell party packages? Your guests get the benefit of your team’s wisdom, and you get to upsell extras such as a birthday cake or drink packages. Diners have a better experience and it gives you the opportunity to boost your profitability. It’s a win-win!

Take pre-orders electronically ahead of the party 

Organising menu options for a party of eight or more can be a huge hassle for the party planner and the venue. With guests unsure of what they ordered and kitchen staff having to accommodate a large number of orders all at once, the outcome can be a stressful and time-consuming situation for all concerned.

A way to overcome this headache is to take pre-orders electronically ahead of when the party arrives. Zonal’s party booking and pre-order solution, liveRES Events and Pre-Order, allows customers to log in to a guest portal where they can view menus and pre-order their food and drink prior the booking. What’s more, they can also pre-pay for their meal, saving everyone time working out what their meal costed. This not only reduces the time hungry diners are waiting for their meal but also helps turn your tables quicker and reduces the pressure on the kitchen staff. Again, it’s a win -win for everyone.

Manage deposits 

Deposits are used to help reduce no-shows, especially for larger bookings where a no-show could be extremely damaging for your restaurant. With staff potentially  unsure about the amount of deposit that has been paid and not being able to automatically reduce the deposit amount from the bill at the end of the night, paying and managing deposits can be a painstakingly monotonous task for both the party guests and the venue staff.

Our restaurant ordering system, Events & Pre-Order allows you to manage deposits electronically. You can send out deposit reminders and deadlines to guests allowing them to pay their share of the deposit, which is then automatically redeemed at the till, saving everyone the hassle of trying to remove the deposit amount off the final bill at the end of night.

LaTouche Finale 

A French term for the final touch, guests love it when there are little details and touches to make them feel special. With EPoS integration, you can connect customer spend and data giving you a detailed picture of each customer, so if they ordered a bottle of champagne the last time they visited, you could suggest it when they are in for another visit!

Discover more about how Zonal’s smart group booking and pre-order solution, liveRES Events, can help improve operations in your hospitality business.

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12 Questions to ask when evaluating reservation systems for your hospitality business

What to consider when you’re evaluating a new online booking and table management solution – and the key questions your provider must answer.

In one episode of the cartoon South Park, the Underpant Gnomes have a plan. Step 1: Collect underpants. Step 3: Profit! As for Step 2… well, there isn’t a Step 2.

Some IT projects are a bit like that. You know that the right platform can deliver measurable improvements. You’ve got the budget you need and the green light to go ahead. Now what? It’s a good idea to make sure you have a Step 2.

Making the case for change

We know that the right IT solution will improve things. The key is to identify what those things are, and what improvements you expect to see. For example, you might want real-time table management linked to reservations so that you can accept last-minute bookings online, or via a central telephone team. Or you might want to monitor conversion rates from email marketing offers. Or you might want to analyse your EPoS data to gain a better understanding of customer behaviour and spend.

This stage is crucial, because it defines the parameters your solution needs to work within. A system that analyses online bookings but not walk-ins isn’t much help if you have significant walk-in traffic. A system that’s built for a Windows PC in the reception area may not talk to mobile devices such as iPads. A system that doesn’t include purchasing and inventory management won’t identify potential savings in those areas. And an online system that doesn’t work on users’ mobiles is an online system doomed to failure.

Conversely, you might not need to upgrade your entire organisation at once. Simply combining two technology solutions such as online reservations and EPoS might tick all the boxes at the moment, with future integration planned for the much longer term.

This stage isn’t just important in terms of the project specification. It’s also important for overcoming potential obstacles to the project success. If key stakeholders in your organisation don’t understand the reasons for change and the benefits of change, they may prove difficult to convince – and that means they could make your project much more difficult to implement.

How much change can you handle?

No two organisations are the same. Some businesses spend months planning, testing and preparing for an IT roll-out. Others complete the entire process in weeks. That isn’t a reflection of their scale, either. Some of the largest, most complex businesses have the shortest roll-outs, while small, niche businesses sometimes need much more time.

And different businesses have different requirements. For some, it’s a move to an entirely new system across the entire organisation. For others, it’s an ongoing process where systems are upgraded according to priority. You might integrate EPoS and reservations now for example, with other integrations coming later.

In practice that means any solution provider offering a cookie-cutter, one size fits all solution should be pelted with bread rolls until they leave the building. As Abraham Maslow put it back in 1966, “it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” In other words, technology is simply a tool to improve your business. If the provider doesn’t understand your specific business requirements, their system is unlikely to meet those requirements either now or in the future.

Twelve key questions to ask about any proposed solution

In addition to the usual questions about hardware and software compatibility, scale, uptime guarantees and timescales, there are several key questions your potential solution provider should be able to answer.

There’s a good chance that some or all of these questions are relevant to your particular circumstances, so take a moment to consider each area:

  1. Do you share the ownership of the data? If you part company, what happens to your stored data?
  2. Is there a per cover fee in addition to the monthly fee?
  3. Do the online components support mobile platforms such as iPhones and tablets and use responsive design to ensure they work on all kinds of devices?
  4. Can the system generate tailored, personalised customer communications?
  5. Can the table management system link to your EPoS system in order to reduce operational duplication?
  6. Can the system deal not just with online bookings but with walk-ins and wait lists?
  7. Can reservation data and EPoS data be combined to establish a clear picture of customer behaviour, preferences and spend?
  8. Does the online booking widget reflect real-time ability?
  9. Can the online booking widget take deposits and is this method PCI compliant?
  10. Does the system allow you to set up separate availability and menus for different day parts and days of the week?
  11. Is the solution completely customisable with your branding, or branded by the 3rd party provider and inflexible?
  12. How will your data be migrated from your existing systems?

And finally… one key question to ask about the entire project

How will all this improve your business and your offer to your customers? How could you handle discounting better, drive increased frequency, and improve guest experience? How could you capture and use data to understand and respond to customer behaviour more effectively?

In short: what is your current state, where do you want to get to, and how can technology help you get there?

Points to remember

  • Always start by identifying the business need, not the technological solution.
  • Set specific objectives. Improving X by 15% is clear and measurable. “Maximising efficiency” isn’t. Ensure your new platform provider is clear on your objectives, so they can help you achieve your goals.
  • Think long term. Will the platform work on mobile devices, both for customers and your business? Who owns the data? Can it scale if your growth increases dramatically?

Any solution provider offering a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits all solution should be pelted with bread rolls until they leave the building.

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7 Sobering Stats on No-Shows in Pubs and Restaurants

In an industry hard hit by the impact of COVID-19, restaurant no-shows are a MASSIVE problem for pubs and restaurants. With reduced tables, local lockdowns and a 10pm curfew, the impact of no shows now financially impacts the sector more than ever before. Once a few bookings fail to materialise, you are almost certainly now looking at a loss for the evening.

One restaurateur explains how no-shows can decimate the bottom line:

“…we don’t make any profit for the night. We only have 60-65 seats, so if 10-12 people don’t show up, the profit gets thrown out the window”

Joel Best, Sydney Morning Herald

The following figures show just how big the issue is, and how some restaurants and pubs are beginning to fight back.

1 in 5 – The average no-show rate in big cities

On average, 20% of diners fail to turn up for their reservations in big cities, according to an in-depth study on restaurant no-shows. This may be down to many factors, including the high level of competition and consumer choice, and a casual attitude towards booking commitments. Most shocking of all are anecdotal reports of people routinely booking multiple venues in advance to avoid disappointment, before making a last-minute decision on the night.

£16 million – What no-shows are costing the UK restaurant industry

A 2015 survey by a restaurant booking system put at £16bn the amount British restaurants are losing out on annually due to no-shows. As every manager knows, the pub or restaurant incurs costs whether the customer shows up or not, with staffing and overheads biting into the bottom line.

15 minutes – time to wait before declaring a no-show

So says the National Restaurant Association of America, which has published a brief guide to combatting no-shows. The organisation (sorry, organization) advises clear communication of your reservations policy, as well as dropping a courtesy call reminder to the customer the day before.They also recommend email confirmations, as a written reminder. These should be sent automatically to the customer as part of any online or tech-based restaurant booking system.

42% of restaurants are taking pre-paid deposits

In a recent poll of UK restaurants it was found that 42% were already taking and holding pre-paid deposits, to help insulate them against the cost of no-shows. Christmas Day and Mother’s Day are prime examples, but the operational challenges this tactic presents can’t be ignored.

Even so, restaurants requiring credit card details for reservations has become relatively widespread at the higher end of the market, and casual dining restaurants and pubs are starting to consider the idea.

1 in 3 venues feel guests are open to late cancellation charge

The same survey asked pub and restaurant managers about late cancellation, less of a bugbear than no-shows but still a significant cause of loss. Allowing customers to have the flexibility to cancel their booking via SMS gives you the opportunity to resell the table to another customer. Table management systems such as liveRES facilitate this service from as little as 4p per text.

32% of the business representatives agreed that ‘most guests would understand the need to hold a deposit or credit card details,’ to compensate the venue against late cancellation.

£150 – Cancellation fee at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

Cancelling on Gordon Ramsay might leave you spluttering The F-word. Unless diners give a full 48 hours’ notice they lose £100 when cancelling lunch, and a whopping £150 on dinner bookings.

Another extreme example is the trend of naming, shaming and even banning customers who fail to turn up for bookings. Restaurants around the world, from Australia to America, have been known to resort to this tactic.

While probably cathartic, this approach has the obvious effect of undermining customer goodwill. Instead, taking credit card details and implementing a reasonable late cancellation fee may be a better way to go.

With liveRES, PCI compliant pre-payments can be taken during the book stage, whether it is £10 per head or a fixed amount if they do not cancel 24 hour ahead of the amount taken per booking is your choice.

7 million – Value of prepaid tickets sold by pioneering restaurants

A revolutionary solution to the restaurant no-show problem has been slowly making its way to the UK from across the pond – taking payment up-front. A number of restaurants in the USA and UK have started to redefine the dining out experience as a ticketed event – like a trip to the theatre or a sporting fixture. This means the customer loses their fee if they cancel, but the venue isn’t left out of pocket.

The future?

It’s yet to be seen whether similar no-show “fines” will catch on over here (our hunch is the UK dining public won’t have the stomach for such measures in the long run).

But what is clear is that pubs and restaurants do need all the ideas and tools they can get to protect their investment in each service.

Key points to remember

  • If up to 1 in 5 diners fail to honour reservations, overbooking tables on key trading days may not be such a radical idea after all
  • The total cost of no-shows to UK pubs and restaurants is estimated at £16 billion
  • Communication can help to reduce no-shows: With liveRES restaurant booking system you could send automatic email confirmation and SMS
  • 42% of restaurants are taking pre-paid deposits, while late cancellation fees are another way to recoup the costs. liveRES allows you to take deposits helping you reduce the number of no-shows
  • Restaurant ticketing is a more proactive trend, putting the onus on customers to book and prepay for their dining experience.
  • Cancellations are not refunded, insulating the venue against loss.

Discover more about how Zonal’s smart online booking and table management solution, liveRES, can help improve operations in your hospitality business.

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6 ways your restaurant booking system can improve yield management

Are your tables pulling their weight? Find out how a restaurant booking system can turbo-charge your tables, boost efficiency and get more covers.

As a restaurant or pub manager, getting maximum table yield is a top priority, especially when opening hours and table sizes are strictly controlled. But as we all know, even the busiest restaurants sometimes end up with empty tables sitting around. Perhaps they’re no-shows, perhaps there was a cancellation, or perhaps one of the staff simply made a mistake. It’s just one of those things that can’t be helped. Or is it?

Maybe it’s time to look again at how to get those tables out of down-time and earning their keep. Here are six tips and tricks you can employ with a restaurant booking system, to boost table yield and ultimately increase profitability.

1) On busy days consider overbooking

For most restaurant and pub managers, the idea of being overbooked sends chills down the spine. They envisage the nightmare scenario of angry customers demanding their seats, having all been promised the same table at the same time.

But as every GM knows, there is always a certain proportion of bookings that become no-shows, leaving spots unfilled. The problem until now has been the unpredictability of this. But all that changes with data.

A computerised restaurant booking system can help you predict the amount of dropouts based on previous periods. Armed with that knowledge, you can dare to overbook a little based on normal patterns, with the result that fewer tables are left empty.

2) Use waiting lists effectively

Another bugbear is keeping customers waiting. Instead of avoiding this at all costs, restaurants and pubs can manage waiting time to their advantage.

If walk-in customers turn up on the door during busy times, staff are put on the spot. Often unable to say precisely how long the wait time will be – or if a table will definitely become available – they may lose the customers who decide to go elsewhere.

But with a tech-based restaurant booking system, these calculations are at the tap of a finger. Your staff can give customers an accurate wait time, put them on a list and send them an automatic message via text or email when the table is free.

3) Make reserved tables work harder

We’ve all been there. We turn up at a pub or restaurant looking forward to a meal or a few drinks. We forgot to book, but that’s OK: there are plenty of free tables. Or are there?

Regretfully the front-of-house tells us that the tables are all booked for the evening. Disappointed, we say our goodbyes and go in search of another spot. Meanwhile, those reserved tables sit there undisturbed until the booked guests arrive two hours later.

No more! Fitting customers in and out is a tricky jigsaw puzzle, but the good news is that technology can do it for you. An intelligent restaurant booking system will release staff from being over-cautious.

They will be able to see exactly what is or will be available and when, meaning fewer walk-ins turned away, less table down-time and more income for the restaurant.

4) Stay live throughout sessions

Many pubs and restaurants stop taking reservations in advance of a session. Again, the fear of getting overbooked is a constant worry. Then there’s the desire to leave some space for walk-ins, and the feeling you never quite know how long guests will take to finish their meal.

But once again, technology is your friend. A restaurant booking system that integrates with EPoS (electronic point of sale) means restaurants and pubs can keep taking reservations 24/7.

Being connected to the till also means that the system can accurately tell you your average turn times for each party size over a given period allowing you improve yield management.

It means you and your staff will have an accurate, real-time view of availability. No more mental acrobatics, adjustments or conservative estimates. If the system shows a free table, it’s a free table, which is especially valuable when running a waitlist.

5) Make sure you’re mobile-friendly

Customers are increasingly likely to browse and book restaurants on a mobile. This on-the-go approach also means that you can expect more last-minute bookings.

So, restaurants and pubs must be geared up for this audience with mobile-friendly websites that display menus in a user-friendly format. Time to ditch those PDF uploads in favour of proper mobile web pages. Social media marketing is also a great way for venues to attract consumers on their smartphones.

Some restaurants may be concerned that diners can make bookings as they are stood on their doorstep leaving them no time to prepare. But the system can be setup to ensure there is a minimum window for advanced bookings (i.e. next available time is a minimum of one hour away) meaning they will never be in compromising positions by leaving availability open.

6) Discount, but be smart about it.

All restaurants and pubs are familiar with the problem of trying to get bookings during quiet times. Often, they turn to discounts and special offers, but how do you avoid cannibalising or making a loss in the process?

One way is to set up special, time-limited offers that are only accessible to customers booking at certain times of the day or week.

You can even limit the number of tables available on the promotion, giving you greater control over offers and discounts. Linking reservation management and marketing promotions in this way should be a feature of any good tech-based restaurant booking system.

Key points to remember

  • Pubs and restaurants can boost their table yield by attacking downtime. A good restaurant booking system helps to fill tables that are waiting to be used, or left empty due to errors or dropouts
  • Overbooking intelligently is a good idea – using past data managers can predict the likely proportion of no-shows and adjust their capacity slightly to ensure maximum table use
  • Use waiting lists and contact data collection to give walk-ups accurate wait-times and send them a message when their table is ready
  • A real-time view of availability is key, particularly as last-minute and mobile bookings get more popular. A reservation system linked to point of sale means tables are released as soon as the bill is paid, increasing the likelihood of more bookings.

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6 Ways to Reduce No-shows

With the sector slowly getting back on its feet after full lockdown, the issue of no-shows has been rearing its ugly head again – with a vengeance, adding salt to an already gaping wound. Thankfully, the latest CGA research points to an improving no-show rate, with many operators insisting on pre-booking as a pre-requisite, or implementing a deposits scheme.

But with the ‘R’ rate creeping up, local lockdowns becoming a regular occurrence across the country and hospitality operators still on the knife edge of survival, hospitality can ill-afford the financial impact of further no-shows.

Zonal’s online bookings experts have put together a quick checklist to help you reduce no-shows and boost profitability in your venue during COVID times.

1. Create an official booking policy

You may have a range of policies floating around that you would like your customers to comply with when dining at your venue. Having a list of terms and conditions that people must agree to before making a reservation means that your customers must stick to them, giving you more control. Terms and conditions could include the following:

  • Every channel on which bookings can be made e.g. your website, by phone, on a third-party site
  • Whether reservations are necessary, or walk-ins are acceptable
  • How far in advance a table reservation should be made
  • How long you are willing to wait before declaring a no-show
  • A cancellation fee (to be determined by you) applies if not enough notice is given

2. Build a relationship with your customers from the point of booking and give them plenty of opportunities to cancel

Your confirmation email or inbound phone call is the start of a one-to-one relationship with your customers, and your opportunity to start building their loyalty and trust. Loyal customers are less likely to no-show, or at least warn you in advance by cancelling their booking, so consider, carefully the information you include in addition to the booking details to make the best first impression.

Make it clear and easy for them to cancel if they no longer require the booking – in your email confirmation, SMS reminders and over the phone by a member of the team.

As with no-shows, cancellations are unfortunately more likely at the present time, so by catching them early, you can give yourself the maximum opportunity to re-sell the table.

3. Be clear about the COVID safety measures you have put in place

Numerous studies over the past couple of months have cited COVID safety concerns as a major reason for not turning up for a reservation. Whilst the lack of cancellation is inexcusable, being absolutely clear in your booking communications, up front, about the Coronavirus safety measures you have put in place will put customers’ minds at ease and manage their expectations well in advance. What will they be expected to do from the moment they arrive? Where will they be sitting? What about toilet facilities? Show them what to expect by sending them links to photos, or better still, a video tour of your venue.

4. Send out SMS and email reminders

After a reservation is made, sending an automated confirmation email or text message can be extremely effective, as diners with smartphones can add these into their calendars, often reminding them of their pre-booking. Using an intelligent table reservations system such as Zonal’s, gives customers the flexibility to cancel their reservation via SMS allowing venues to free up their tables to be resold. With the average open rate for SMS being 82%, sending reminders 48 hours before a reservation can have a huge impact on minimising no-shows for those who are forgetful, who want to make amendments to their booking, are poorly or self-isolating, or are just not feeling confident about their safety in a public place.

5. Run a waitlist for queuing diners to fill no-show table bookings

With the reduced number of covers available in most venues due to social distancing regulations, turning diners waiting for a table away because you’re fully booked only for your pre-booked tables to no-show is a real kick in the teeth. A smart table management system such as Zonal’s, will help to prevent this by enabling you to run and manage a waitlist. With precise wait time, combined with your policy for cut-off times for no-shows, you could be filling your no-show tables in no time!

6. Consider taking deposits – but only if relevant for your business

Deposit schemes divide opinion across the industry and are certainly not relevant to all hospitality businesses. However, with reduced seating capacities due to social distancing guidelines, a deposit scheme may be essential for the continued viability of some businesses. Reservation cancellation fees are nothing new and can persuade customers to take their reservation more seriously. Many restaurants have already implemented this ranging from a £5 deposit to £25.

Pre-paid deposits can be redeemed at the time of paying the bill, so bookers are more willing to show up for their reservations and could end up spending more because they’ve already got what seems like money off.

Make sure your booking system is PCI (payment card industry) compliant, so your customers’ data is always processed correctly and securely.

Find out how Zonal’s reservation system can help with no-shows:

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SA Brain makes the intelligent choice with Zonal

Introducing SA Brain

Family run brewing business, established in 1882

One of Wales’ best-loved brands

220 pubs, inns and hotels

Brewers of an award-winning, diverse range of beers

“If you had told me at the start of this journey that we would have achieved a total of 183 installations without a hitch or single failure, then I would have laughed. But all credit to Zonal, thanks to their knowledge, expertise and support that’s exactly what has been achieved, and we look forward to building on this partnership over the coming months and years.”
Steve Hicks, IT & Hospitality Manager, SA Brains
This is Zonal's loyalty system

The solution

Welsh brewer, pub and hotel business, SA Brain, completed a seamless rollout of Zonal’s hospitality technology solutions to its 110 managed houses in just three months. All technology systems are fully integrated and comprise of Loyalty, Feed It Back guest feedback and Gift Cards.

  • 110 sites live in three months
  • Solutions adopted include EPoS, Loyalty, Gift Cards and guest feedback
  • All technology solutions integrate with EPoS and with each other
  • 57 sites also live with Zonal’s handheld, digital order pad, iServe enabling team members to take orders, print and process payments remotely
  • Piloting EPoS-integrated kitchen and service management solution, Kitchen iQ, providing kitchen and service staff with real-time reporting on order, prep and wait times at site and estate level

“The feedback from our teams has been really positive; they now have the tools they need to deliver a fantastic experience to our customers, so they return and recommend us to their family and friends”
Steve Hicks, IT & Hospitality Manager, SA Brains

Results

SA Brain fully embraced Zonal’s integrated technology and following a comprehensive training programme and successful rollout with the superior knowledge, expertise and support of the Zonal team, the business has seen significant benefits

This is the integration icon
183 EPoS installations completed without a hitch or single failure
Positive feedback from all SA Brain teams
Enhancement of the customer journey
This is the customer data icon
Staff have the tools they need to deliver a fantastic experience to customers
A smooth and successful transition to a new technology provider

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EPoS rollout is smooth sailing for Stonegate

Introducing Stonegate

Established in 2010

The largest privately held managed pub operator in the UK

12,000 employees

772 pubs and bars

Brands include Slug & Lettuce, Walkabout and Yates

“We were looking for a partner that was able to implement a new system quickly and effectively with minimal impact on our dynamic business and training was key.”
Dave Ross, Chief Financial Officer, Stonegate

The business challenge

Stonegate was looking for a new EPoS system that fully integrated into its existing Loyalty scheme and sought a provider that could install and roll out the technology as quickly as possible with minimal disruption to the business.

Needed EPoS software that integrated into Loyalty scheme

Wanted a quick, pain-free rollout across the entire estate

Required no disruption to the business

Required peace of mind from comprehensive training provider

The solution

Zonal’s EPoS solution was installed into Stonegate’s existing terminals, together with the introduction of Zonal’s system in both back and head office and the complete integration of the Stonegate’s loyalty scheme and app.

  • The ambitious rollout programme included a 40 site trial
  • A rapid implementation phase converting 60+ sites per week
  • To ensure all sites were installed and ready for trading, Zonal hosted bespoke training sessions prior to going live
  • Zonal provided onsite support on the day of switchover

“This was a major investment for us, which required minimum disruption to the business. Having a Zonal representative on site on day one was extremely important to make sure that the pub could continue to trade and that the team were supported through this important change. The Zonal helpline was key to ensuring our team had the right back-up and support”
Dave Ross, Chief Financial Officer, Stonegate

Results

Zonal’s unique approach to training and support throughout the installation and rollout process gave Stonegate confidence and peace of mind that the switchover to Zonal technology would be completed as quickly as possible.

This is a clock icon
Rollout to all sites completed in 3 months
Staff can spend less time back-of-house dealing with admin, and more time front-of-house looking after customers.
Full support provided throughout the rollout process
Onsite support provided on go-live day

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Appetite for mobile solutions that feed interactive and personalised experiences grows

Interactive and personalised experiences are shaping the out of home eating and drinking sector, according to the latest GO Technology report from Zonal and CGA.

The quarterly report, that tracks the hospitality technology habits of 5,000 UK adults, shows the mobile generation of 18 to 24 year olds are using their smartphones in increasing numbers to settle their bills (22%).  But trust and lack of personalisation are key barriers to more widespread uptake, with one in six (16%) saying they don’t use their mobile to order because of customisation issues.

Also, as 18 to 24 year olds seek interactive experiences on a night out, augmented reality (AR) could become more popular in venues as 25% believe AR in menus and ordering could enhance their visit.

Zonal’s group product director Alison Vasey said: “As we are the mobile generation, it comes as no surprise that consumers are clearly open to using technology as part of their going out experience, whether browsing a menu or paying for a round of drinks, in order to satisfy their thirst for convenience and speed of service.

For those brands that continue to ignore adopting mobile solutions, it could prove to be costly. The typical monthly spend on eating and drinking out by those who pay with a smartphone is £97 per month, that’s £14 more than the GB average.

Karl Chessell, Business Unit Director, Retail and Food, CGA added: “This fascinating snapshot of consumers’ behaviour shows how mobile devices are transforming the way people and brands interact. But as with all forms of technology, there is still a huge opportunity to improve guests’ engagement. Establishing trust, focusing on convenience and rewarding loyalty are just three of the many ways to achieve that, and operators that provide a secure and satisfying mobile experience can secure an important edge in an ultra-competitive market.”

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7 sobering stats on no-shows in pubs and restaurants

Dreaded no-shows aren’t just inconvenient. They can be fatal, leaving British restaurants and pubs severely out of pocket. These figures show how serious the issue is, and what steps the industry is now taking to tackle it.

Restaurant no-shows are a MASSIVE problem for pubs and restaurants. In an industry where profit margins can sometimes be quite low, once a few bookings fail to materialise, you are probably looking at a loss for the evening.

One restaurateur explains how no-shows can decimate the bottom line:

“…we don’t make any profit for the night. We only have 60-65 seats, so if 10-12 people don’t show up, the profit gets thrown out the window”

Joel Best, Sydney Morning Herald

These figures show just how big the issue is, and how some restaurants and pubs are beginning to fight back.

1 in 5: The average no-show rate in big cities

On average, 20% of diners fail to turn up for their reservations in big cities, according to an in-depth study on restaurant no-shows.

This may be down to many factors, including the high level of competition and consumer choice, and a casual attitude towards booking commitments.

Most shocking of all are anecdotal reports of people routinely booking multiple venues in advance to avoid disappointment, before making a last-minute decision on the night.

£16 billion: What no-shows are costing the UK restaurant industry

A 2015 survey by a restaurant booking system put at £16bn the amount British restaurants are losing out on annually due to no-shows.

As every manager knows, the pub or restaurant incurs costs whether the customer shows up or not, with staffing and overheads biting into the bottom line.

15 minutes: Time to wait before declaring a no-show

So says the National Restaurant Association of America, which has published a brief guide to combatting no-shows.

The organisation (sorry, organization) advises clear communication of your reservations policy, as well as dropping a courtesy call reminder to the customer the day before.

They also recommend email confirmations, as a written reminder. These should be sent automatically to the customer as part of any online or tech-based restaurant booking system.

42%: Restaurants taking pre-paid deposits

In a recent poll of UK restaurants it was found that 42% were already taking and holding pre-paid deposits, to help insulate them against the cost of no-shows. Christmas Day and Mother’s Day are prime examples, but the operational challenges this tactic presents can’t be ignored.

Even so, restaurants requiring credit card details for reservations has become relatively widespread at the higher end of the market, and casual dining restaurants and pubs are starting to consider the idea.

1 in 3: Venues feel guests are open to late cancellation charge

The same survey asked pub and restaurant managers about late cancellation, less of a bugbear than no-shows but still a significant cause of loss.

32% of the business representatives agreed that ‘most guests would understand the need to hold a deposit or credit card details,’ to compensate the venue against late cancellation.

£150: Cancellation fee at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

Cancelling on Gordon Ramsay might leave you spluttering The F-word. Unless diners give a full 48 hours notice they lose £100 when cancelling lunch, and a whopping £150 on dinner bookings.

Another extreme example is the trend of naming, shaming and even banning customers who fail to turn up for bookings. Restaurants around the world, from Australia to America, have been known to resort to this tactic.

While probably cathartic, this approach has the obvious effect of undermining customer goodwill. Instead, taking credit card details and implementing a reasonable late cancellation fee may be a better way to go.

£13.7 million: Value of prepaid tickets sold by pioneering restaurants

Here’s a revolutionary solution to the restaurant no-show problem: take payment up-front.

A number of restaurants in the USA started doing just that, redefining the dining out experience as a ticketed event – like a trip to the theatre or a sporting fixture.

Alinea and Next are the Chicago restaurants credited with pioneering the concept. Since 2011 the two venues have racked up $20 million (£13.7 mn) in prepaid bookings.

Now UK restaurants like London’s The Clove Club are rolling out a similar system. Cancellations mean the customer loses their fee, but the venue isn’t left out of pocket.

The future?

It’s yet to be seen whether similar no-show “fines” will catch on over here (our hunch is the UK dining public won’t have the stomach for such measures in the long run).

But what is clear is that pubs and restaurants do need all the ideas and tools they can get to protect their investment in each service.

Key points to remember

  • If up to 1 in 5 diners fail to honour reservations, overbooking tables on key trading days may not be such a radical idea after all
  • The total cost of no-shows to UK pubs and restaurants is estimated at £16 billion
  • Communication can help to reduce no-shows: your restaurant booking system should send automatic email confirmation, and courtesy calls act as a reminder
  • 42% of restaurants are taking pre-paid deposits, while late cancellation fees are another way to recoup the costs
  • Restaurant ticketing is a more proactive trend, putting the onus on customers to book and prepay for their dining experience.
  • Cancellations are not refunded, insulating the venue against loss.

Get in touch

Chat with our sales team to learn about how Zonal products could benefit you.